Rian Johnson built a better mousetrap. Going into Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, part of me feared that Johnson was doing a follow up to his incredibly popular and critically acclaimed Knives Out because he had to. Not that Johnson is a franchise machine (despite his dabbling in the Star Wars universe), nor the fact that he hasn’t put thought and care into every film he’s delivered to date. It’s just that the demand for a sequel seemed to be louder than the motivation for one, as audience members loved spending time with private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, being delightful as hell), and almost everyone loves a murder mystery.
So the best compliment that I can pay Glass Onion now that it has screened as part of the Toronto International Film Festival is that surpasses the original Knives Out movie by taking everything audiences enjoyed about the twisty whodunit and escalating the stakes at every turn. Rian Johnson doesn’t come close to rehashing the original, or coasting by on the momentum generated by Knives Out. He almost starts over completely, with a new location, a new set of oddball characters, but the same dependable Blanc, back on the hunt of a devious criminal. The game is afoot!
Daniel Craig should play Benoit Blanc forever.
No matter how many Knives Out movies Daniel Craig makes, he’ll probably be remembered for his memorable stint as 007 in a series of James Bond movies. Rightfully so. Craig arguably is the best Bond this generation has seen, and his stamp on the character is going to linger for decades. But the second line in the actor’s biography should be about Benoit Blanc, a hero cut from a totally different cloth than Bond, yet one that Craig inhabits so comfortably, it hardly seems like he’s acting at all.
Benoit Blanc uses his brain (where Bond is all brawn). He’s thought out the likely scenarios in almost every room that he occupies, and can so easily outwit his antagonists, it almost frustrates him… because he desperately wishes the “game” would go on. The beauty of Benoit’s return in Glass Onion is that he’s being tested by a new crop of deviants, who have invited him to a remote island off the coast of Greece where a tech billionaire (Edward Norton) wants to stage a high-concept murder mystery party of his own for his closest friends. It’s a premise Agatha Christie would adore, and it’s pure delight seeing Craig back on a case, working every angle and staying ahead of both us and his adversary.
Glass Onion has a better story than Knives Out.
And that’s saying something, because the reason audiences enjoyed Knives Out so much was because of the twisty plot and colorful characters that Rian Johnson concocted for his murder mystery. The Knives Out cast was on point, the twists were surprising, and the reveal was satisfactory.
And Glass Onion is better. In my humble opinion. Not that I can explain to you here in any way how and why the movie surpasses its predecessor. Spoilers are aplenty, and this movie needs to be appreciated knowing as little as possible going in. But the cast Johnson assembled for Knives Out 2 completely understood the assignment. Norton is back to being the emarmy, egotistical cad we’ve come to love that he plays. Kate Hudson is a complete standout as a social media influencer with her finger in the fashion world. Dave Bautista continues to prove he’s a terrific actor and not just a burly wrestler with his nuanced turn here. And Janelle Monae… damn, Janelle Monae wraps this entire production around her finger.
But the beauty of Glass Onion, in a similar fashion to Knives Out, is that it’s a single-serving Benoit Blanc story that can lead to a completely new murder mystery for this beloved sleuth, allowing Rian Johnson and Daniel Craig to continue making giddily delightful movies such as this “until (Daniel) blocks me on his phone,” as the director joked during the film’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. For now, though, Glass Onion is a big, big hit that glides like it’s on skates and benefits from an airtight screenplay that will have you guessing and cheering from start to finish. It’s a terrific ride.
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