Stop What You're Doing and Go See Glass Onion
Let's start with the important stuff. This article will contain no details about the plot or characters of Glass Onion beyond what is established in the film's opening or is crystal clear from its marketing. Like Knives Out, the first entry in writer-director Rian Johnson's delectable whodunnit series, Glass Onion is best seen with as little advance warning of its twists and turns as possible, and, if at all possible, in theatres with a raucous crowd. If my screening is anything to go by, the laughter and gasps of a live audience are an essential element.
With that all out of the way, here's what I can tell you.
Glass Onion is an absolute triumph. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is back and better than ever in a murder mystery sequel more intricately designed and devilishly entertaining than the first. Writer-director Johnson has entirely outdone himself, constructing a wickedly sharp social satire wrapped inside a delectable mystery package; the political commentary is more refined, the comedic beats more biting, the mystery's structure more focused. As a gang of old friends descend on the private Greek island of tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) for a murder mystery party, secrets are laid bare, allegiances are tested, and nothing is as it initially appears—or is it? Like the titular structure, Glass Onion's many layers are hidden in plain sight, and the closer you look, the deeper the reflections take you.
From a craft perspective, it's a significant level up for Johnson and his team, Gone is the reclusive gothic New England mansion of Knives Out; replaced instead by Rick Heinrich's magnificent Mediterranean island paradise, loaded with visual gags and secrets cleverly concealed in plain sight, all slowly revealed by Steve Yedlin's excellent camerawork. Johnson's regular musical collaborator (and cousin!) Nate Johnson abandons the dramatic staccato strings of the first film for a grander, more sweeping score that perfectly fits the sequel's tone. And the entire thing would fall apart without Bob Ducsay's pitch-perfect editing, which slowly peels back the mystery's layers without ever sacrificing character or narrative momentum.
Crucially, though, Johnson strikes the perfect balance between crafting his meticulously elaborate narrative for maximum payoff and giving his obscenely talented ensemble room to cook. Craig once again appears to be having the time of his life as the southern-fried detective (whose absurd accent, it must be said, has only ripened with time), but he feels like less of a focal point this time around, generously ceding the spotlight to his new castmates for long stretches of the film.
And every one of them brings their A-game, wringing unexpected pathos and shocking laugh lines out of the despicable caricatures they're assigned. I could write full paragraphs for any of them--Kathryn Hahn digs deep into the most significant big budget film role she's ever had, Edward Norton playfully skewers his own star persona, Leslie Odom Jr. is an island of steady calm among the madness, Jessica Henwick and Madeline Cline threaten to steal every scene from their more famous costars, and Dave Bautista continues his reign as the funniest giant man in Hollywood. But towering above the rest are Janelle Monáe (the less details about her role, the better, but she's astounding) and Kate Hudson, who hasn't been this dialed-in to a role in decades and—aided and abetted by Jenny Eagan's outrageously fabulous costumes—practically walks away with the whole thing.
I hesitate to write any more lest I risk giving away any of Glass Onion's delightful surprises. So stop reading and go see it now. You'll be glad you did.
Glass Onion is playing for a one-week limited theatrical engagement beginning November 23, and will be streaming on Netflix on December 23.