Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): Blanc back in action

Rian Johnson’s new film “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”, which was released on Netflix yesterday, is another delicious murder mystery to be savored and appreciated. Like its predecessor “Knives Out” (2019), it is constantly witty, intriguing, and suspenseful as throwing one surprise plot turn after another, and you will enjoy many fun and colorful moments in the movie even if you can easily guess the answer in advance.

Daniel Craig, who recently ended his tenure in the James Bond series, is back as Benoit Blanc, who is incidentally the best detective in the world according to Google. He happens to be invited to a little private party to be held in a small Greek island belonging to the owner of a prominent technology company, and he subsequently finds himself surrounded by a bunch of figures who are also invited to the party for a personal reason. All of these figures have been associated with Miles Bron (Edward Norton) in one way or another for years, and Bron is going to have another fun time with them just like he and they have done every year.

Not long after Blanc arrives in Bron’s island along with the other guests, Bron reveals something to Blanc in private. As a matter of fact, Blanc was not actually invited, and it goes without saying that somebody wants Blanc to attend Bron’s party for some unknown reason. Because Bron plans a murder mystery game for his guests who do not like him much for each own reason, Blanc tactfully warns Bron, but Bron does not pay much attention to Blanc’s warning.

It is not much of a spoiler to tell you that the situation becomes much more serious for everyone later, but now I have to be a lot more discreet about describing the story and characters. Once everyone sees how serious the circumstance really is, Blanc steps forward as expected, but the mystery handed to him looks quite difficult to solve. For instance, every living figure around him has a good motive and chance for committing that crime in question, and the mood certainly becomes more tense and disturbing as he and others are going to be stuck inside the island during next several hours.

As the story briskly rolls from one unexpected moment to another, the movie deftly doles out a number of hints and clues as expected, and the main pleasure comes from how Johnson’s screenplay cleverly builds them up to an eventual narrative point where everything perfectly and beautifully fits together in the end. While there are several big plot turns to catch off you guard, the movie never loses its narrative momentum at all as firmly holding our attention, and we are completely satisfied by how it delivers a cathartic moment of resolution with sheer thrill and excitement.

In technical aspects, Johnson and his crew members have a lot of fun with imbuing the main background of the movie with a considerable amount of style and details. Bron’s big manor in the island, which is more or less of the reflection of his ego which is as big and vain as Elon Musk’s, is filled with interesting stuffs to draw our attention, and my personal favourite one in the film is a garden which happens to be a non-smoking area for a reason to be revealed later in the film. The production design by Rick Heinrichs and the costume design by Jenny Eagan are often impressive to say the least, and their splendid works are captured well on the screen by cinematographer Steve Yedlin.

At the center of the film, Craig goes all the way with his character’s exaggerated accent while also exuding his character’s irrepressible wit, charm, and intelligence. Blanc looks rather silly at times, but, like Hercules Poirot in Agatha Christie’s mystery novels, he is always watchful as enthusiastically drawn to another crime mystery to be solved, and Craig ably conveys to us a strong sense of decency and justice behind his character’s unabashedly comic appearance. At one point early in the film, Blanc emphasizes that he just cares about facts only, but, of course, he does care much more than he seems on the surface, and you will smile as observing how he slyly lets the justice served around the end of the story.

Around Craig, Johnson assembles a number of various performers, and each of them surely has each own fun with their broad but colorful archetype roles. While Edward Norton is suitably obnoxious as required by his character, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, and Janelle Monáe are also effective as the other potential suspects in the story, and Monáe is especially terrific when her character, who is quite bitter about Bron and most of his guests for an understandable reason of her own, mercilessly roasts them all at one point. In addition, a number of notable figures and performers make their cameo appearances here and there throughout the film, and it is certainly a bit poignant to see the last movie appearance of Angela Lansbury and Stephen Sondheim (The movie is dedicated to both of them, by the way).

On the whole, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is thoroughly enjoyable thanks to Johnson’s dexterous handling of story and characters and many other strong elements including the spirited efforts from Craig and the other main cast members. It is a shame that I and other South Korean audiences could not have a chance to watch at movie theater, but I had a pretty good time with it today anyway, and I sincerely urge you to check it out as soon as possible before exposed to any spoiler.

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