Another meticulously-crafted, if wilder, Benoit Blanc caper.
Writer/Director Rian Johnson has said that in Agatha Christie murder mysteries which inspired his own Knives Out series, of which this is the second chapter, each instalment took “a totally different conceptual approach… subverting the tropes of the genre from the very start“.
Glass Onion does indeed continue the tribute to / subversion of the genre established in Knives Out (2019), with its fantastic ensemble cast, timely social commentary, and carefully controlled visual flair in service of deliberate and detailed storytelling – and does so, to lesser and greater effect, in its own ways.
For a cast of such amazing actors, few of them get the room to do their best work – and those who do, specifically Daniel Craig and Janelle Monae of course, but also Dave Bautista, truly shine. (Perhaps it’s not coincidental that theirs are the characters, albeit to a lesser extent in Bautista’s Jude, who are playing roles, and in more than one mode at different times – and that their respective reveals add dimensions, both in immediate retrospect and going forward, to their characters and to the film itself.)
Where the social commentary in its predecessor manifested through dialogue, in Glass Onion it’s more through references the viewer kind of already needs to be in on – and in this regard at least, it will be interesting to see which of the two ages better.
Perhaps even moreso than Knives Out, Glass Onion rewards us Benoit Blanc-wannabes for paying attention not only to details, but more invigoratingly, to instincts. Every angle, delivery, beat, and nuance is there for a reason. The things you thought you noticed, but dismissed? They count. They’re key.
While characterisation and caustic satire aren’t quite as strong here as in the first instalment, the visuals in Glass Onion are a step up entirely. Light and shadow are used to stunning effect – and while the most dramatic moments are given in-universe motivation, we know it’s just an excuse to compose striking visuals – and we love it:
I mean, the choreography of the blackout scene alone – reframing purely through lighting, without the camera even needing to move:
It’s exciting and promising for this emergent film series that Johnson indeed takes “a totally different conceptual approach” – that instead of establishing and following a formula, each film will aim to surprise, subvert, and hopefully delight, in its own unique way.
Rian Johnson talks about how he uses blocking to introduce the film’s ensemble cast (via Vanity Fair):
LadyJenevia lays out how Johnson’s film-making functions much like the fugue, as explained in the film by Yo-Yo Ma, revealing wonderfully rich layering in Glass Onion:
… and, in the process, counters the current epidemic of dishonest and just lazy takes from commentators (pseudo-intellectual media illiterates, often with depressingly large platforms) with no curiosity about art, and no understanding of how to engage with it, who insist on loudly and aggressively telling on themselves:
Ok, one more example of how Glass Onion confronts certain viewers with the fact that Rian Johnson is more visually literate than them, and they don’t like how that makes them feel: