It is believed that what started as an idle thought – to continue the adventures of detective Benoit Blanc, “the greatest detective in the world” – has resulted not only in the inevitable holder of the franchise, but in one of the most exciting, funniest and most pleasant of the year. Cleverly cast, it boasts one of the year’s most brilliant scripts, not only in its witty, laugh-out-loud dialogue and satirical take on pop culture, but also in its meticulous staging, the flaws of a traditional story that holds the mind. scoring from start to finish. Unusually for a recent Netflix launch, hardly a minute is wasted, and it’s no wonder a Christmas release is slated for an intelligent crowd to enjoy every beat.
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Director Rian Johnson was quite open about the original Knives out influences, and this sequel’s immediate premise—a group of friends are summoned to a remote Greek island by an old acquaintance—suggests an homage to the 1973 ocean-based crime thriller Sheila’s lastthe unlikely and somewhat psychedelic brainchild of screenwriters Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins. Glass onion, however, is merely teasing that reference; once it sets sail, it becomes very much its own beast, setting a frenetic kinetic pace that never lets up. This is Foreigners of Knives out universe, an exponential iteration of a great concept that already knows its main character inside out and is thinking hard when it comes to finding a cerebral challenge worthy of it.
Here, the host is Miles Bron (Edward Norton), the billionaire owner of the Alpha Company, and the friends who gather to sail on his island are a diverse group. There’s Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), a politician standing as an independent candidate after losing her Democratic supporters; Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr), a renowned scientist; Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), a former model with her own clothing line; and Duke (Dave Bautista), a men’s rights YouTuber who arrives with his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline). While waiting at the dock, everyone is surprised when the famous squad Blanc (Daniel Craig) shows his masked face – the date is May 13, 2020, the climax of the jam – but they are more shocked to see Andi Brown (Janelle Monáe ), Bron’s former business partner, with whom he has nothing but bad blood after a bitter court case.
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Having sent sophisticated puzzle boxes (designed by a Ricky Jay student, apparently), Bron greets his guests when they arrive ashore. Banksy sculptures await in the sand, and Bron is lazily strumming “Blackbird” on the guitar that he claims McCartney wrote (note: please watch the video before writing to comment). Every 60 minutes we hear the “dong-orin”, written especially for Bron by Philip Glass, and almost everything about his ridiculous hideout is commercialized and codified: “This rich people’s crap is weird,” as one character comments.
Bron has gathered these seemingly random people for a weekend murder-mystery game that will see them investigate his murder. But seeing as all the guests have a good reason to see him dead (everyone, as Andy points out, is addicted to Bron’s “golden tits”), will the game really be played? The guessing game now begins, and the twists and turns that follow do Glass onion almost impossible to review without spoilers, constantly recalibrating—for example, Johnson includes a nod to Hitchcock’s Vertigo to incredibly satisfying effect – but crucially, never getting too far ahead of his audience.
The key to this is a heightened sense of humor that allows White to flourish in a way that the previous Knives out we wouldn’t have allowed it: now the character is established, Craig has a lot of fun with it, pushing southern caricature to the limit and then blowing it up within the first 40 minutes in a spectacularly wrong-footed set piece. Following his direction, all the characters are allowed to send themselves – not least Birdie bosh, the former cover star of Face and a Twitterer so reckless that her assistant has to hide her phone. The Duke, in his baggy shorts, is a wonderful and similarly daring piece of self-mockery and a career-high Norton – where exactly has this fantastic actor been lately? – is just the icing on the cake.
That leaves two quirks: Craig, now free of Bond, has finally nailed the comedy, revealing previously untapped depths (a scene in which the dead Blanc hides behind and between the butts of a bronze statue is a mini- silent comedy masterpiece). But the Ana de Armas award for the second iteration of Knives out goes to the simply fantastic Monáe who pulls off one of the best and most intuitively perfect performances of 2022. The explosive finale might be a little messy, but Glass onion isn’t alone in this, joining Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or winner The triangle of sadness like an infectiously joyful noise that slants the self-indulgent pomposity and sheer stupidity of a truly mad world.