Under Review: “Glass Onion”


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Sophomore Turner Edwards shares his thoughts on Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Movie.”

Turner Edwards, Staff Writer

As far as company-backed, all-star ensemble blockbusters go, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is an outlier. These kinds of movies tend to play things safe, ensuring a large profit but sacrificing artistic risk. But director Rian Johnson has never shied away from taking a chance or subverting expectations in a mega-hit film—just watch “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

Johnson’s risk-taking mindset is evident in many aspects of “Glass Onion.” The movie, a 2022 release, is set in May 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. While “Knives Out” feels somewhat timeless, set vaguely in the 21st century, “Glass Onion” is a direct product of the early 2020s. 

“Glass Onion” does not pull any punches. The movie’s central mystery unravels in a path somewhat similar to that of a roller coaster. Initially, it is slow, measured and tension-building—but never boring. Upon reaching the climax of the story, the audience is subjected to twists and turns before an epic finale. 

There is one issue I have with the movie’s plot: it is a mystery that cannot be solved based on the “clues.” The movie controls all the information given to the viewer regarding one major twist until it pulls back the curtain—there is no way to guess beforehand.

Part of the reason why the film never feels boring is that the cast is mostly excellent. Standouts include Daniel Craig, returning as Benoit Blanc, an ace detective with a southern drawl; Edward Norton, who plays a billionaire tech mogul (clearly drawing inspiration from Elon Musk); Janelle Monaé, who plays Norton’s scorned partner; and Kate Hudson, playing an airheaded supermodel-turned-entrepreneur who is also known for her politically incorrect stunts. At times, it feels like the cast is competing to see who is having the most fun. 

“Glass Onion’s” use of its cast is wildly entertaining—but not flawless. Kathryn Hahn, who plays a politician; Dave Bautista, who plays a toxic-masculinity-endorsing livestreamer; and Leslie Odom Jr., who plays a scientist, all seem underdeveloped in comparison to the aforementioned cast. More criminal is the underuse of Jessica Henwick (Peg) and Madelyn Cline (Whiskey): both are just “sidekicks” of the main players. 

Another point of contention is that “Glass Onion” is simply weaker than its predecessor. I am inclined to agree: the characters in “Knives Out” feel far more fleshed out, and its dialogue is funnier. “Glass Onion’s” characters are comedic, but they feel more like caricatures. Johnson’s intent is clear—the cast is meant to represent how out-of-touch with reality their real-life counterparts are—but the characters ultimately fall flat in comparison to “Knives Out’s” cast.

“Glass Onion’s” visuals are occasionally brilliant. Cinematographer Steve Yedlin takes advantage of the film’s setting, showing off the movie’s secluded, high-tech island resort with style and using the Mona Lisa, which temporarily resides on the island, in an interesting way.

Overall, “Glass Onion” is a satisfying mystery that holds its own. It is the weaker entry in the genre, but it faces stiff competition—not only against “Knives Out,” but also against movies like Hercule Poirot’s “Death on the Nile.” “Glass Onion” is a smart, entertaining yet flawed movie with some interesting social commentary. It is unafraid to take risks. Most of them pay off. 

Final score: 8/10