This review is part of my coverage of TIFF ’22, which held Glass Onion’s world premiere.
Writer/Director Rian Johnson perfected the whodunnit mystery genre in Knives Out, one of my favourite films of 2019. While it could have very easily been a rehash of the first film, Glass Onion once again breathes new life into this genre with a completely new cast, a new mystery to solve, and a familiar central character whose exciting return appears to be building him up as the modern-day Sherlock Holmes.
Taking place on a billionaire’s (Edward Norton) private Greek island, Glass Onion follows a group of friends who have been invited to a murder mystery party that goes horribly wrong. When someone actually dies, Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) immediately attempts to solve the murder.
The mystery in Glass Onion is layered and unpredictable. It goes many places that you would not expect. For me, this is a nice change of pace considering I guessed the perpetrator of the murder in the first Knives Out film pretty early on. I hadn’t the slightest clue where this film was going, making for an all around superior mystery.
Glass Onion is essentially more of everything the first film had. It’s more fun, more humorous, and more exciting. It is also a lot bigger in scale and has more twists and turns to the story. Rian Johnson has said that he was inspired by films such as The Last of Sheila (there’s a nice little nod to that film you should keep an eye out for, I’m not saying anything else to keep this review completely spoiler-free) and Evil Under the Sun. While you see those inspirations here, it really does breathe new life into those kinds of films. This and Knives Out have made the whodunnit mystery genre feel new and exciting again.
The cast also makes the film as witty and fun as it is, with great on-screen chemistry throughout. It features a star studded cast of greats such as Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista, Ethan Hawke, and Kate Hudson. While I am not here to keep comparing this film to its predecessor, I can’t leave out the fact that the characters in this sequel are more likeable and more relatable, because it makes for a much more enjoyable movie. Benoit Blanc inserts himself in the middle of this group dynamic perfectly, not feeling out of place, but rather as if he belongs in this group. But overall, I like how they brought in a completely new cast. It allows for a totally new story that feels very different, and I think that is a formula that should continue moving forward with this series.
The film is visually pleasing. The cinematography and scope here is stunning, with some great set design and on-location filming in Greece. It’s bright, colourful and playful, a welcomed contrast to its dark subject matter.
It’s very rare to see a film so well done that the fact that it just unapologetically pulls from other films is not even a talking point. After all, it’s not like we haven’t seen this exact set-up before. But the film is so reinvigorating that it doesn’t even matter. You could see it as a throwback, but you could also see it as a genre-revitalizing experience. And it is definitely both. While I would like to see Rian Johnson experiment with other films outside of the Knives Out franchise, I think he has found his own calling as a murder mystery director. I’m very excited to see where he takes this series moving forward, and how he intends on further reinventing this genre. I can’t recommend Glass Onion enough, it’s easily one of the best films of the year, and the best film I’ve seen at TIFF so far. Here’s a tip: the film is screening in a limited amount of theatres in November, before its Netflix release on December 23rd. If you can, see this in a theatre. It will be a lot more fun with an audience.
Film Grade: A+