On Dec. 23, 2022, Netflix added “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” to its film repertoire. As stated in the film’s full title, “Glass Onion” is a sequel to “Knives Out” and may be the first of many films following the fictional expert detective Benoit Blanc. “Glass Onion” features a stellar cast, witty dialogue, clever humor and incredible plot twists, just like its predecessor. However, while both films are excellent, they provide unique viewing experiences, truly holding their own.
“Glass Onion“ opens by introducing viewers to several of the film’s main characters as they work together to solve a puzzle box from their close friend, tech big shot Miles Bron. The characters include Claire, an established liberal politician running for Senator; Lionel, a lead scientist at Miles’ company Alpha; Birdie Jay, an air-headed model and fashion designer in a state of constant cancellation and Duke, a Twitch streamer who preaches ‘meninist’ beliefs alongside his gorgeous girlfriend Whiskey. All the characters eventually arrive at a dock where Miles’ yacht awaits to take them to his private island. A mystery woman arrives, who is revealed to be Andi Brand, the co-founder of Alpha, whom Bron and the gang recently cut out of the company.
The atmosphere initially appears to be business-as-usual; upon arriving at the island, the crew relaxes and settles in. After discovering he was not invited by Bron, Blanc wanders around, gathering accidental intel on each character. However, the murder mystery begins after dinner, when Duke drops dead after drinking from Bron’s glass. After the lights go out and the crew scatters in panic, an unknown attacker appears to shoot and kill Brand. The film then travels back to pivotal scenes, reframing them through the eyes of the island’s various attendees and revealing key contextual information. A massive plot twist reveals who invited Blanc, and just as the film’s predecessor demonstrates, in “Glass Onion,” the truth is far more complicated than it seems.
“Glass Onion” is an excellent film to watch for countless reasons. For one, the setting of the film — the early days of COVID — makes it instantly relatable for any viewer. The setting also allows for unique ways to introduce characters and portray their unique personalities.
For example, each character’s mask choice reveals plenty about who they are as people. Blanc’s fashionable and properly-adorned mask shows he is an organized and detail-oriented person; Birdie Jay’s mesh bejeweled mask (reminiscent of Lana Del Ray’s infamous mask) shows she is careless and lacks any awareness of the severity of her decisions; Duke and Whiskey forgo masks altogether, as their brands center around their conservative views like men’s rights and a distrust of the government. In the same scene, Bron’s employees shoot a device up the noses of each attendee to protect them from COVID, but the people administering the shot refuse to share how the technology works, instead insisting that the guests “do not need to worry.” Not only does this portray how much blind trust each of Bron’s friends have in him, but also Miles’ selfishness for using the technology to host a gathering for his friends instead of sharing the technology and saving lives.
Additionally, “Glass Onion” contains many celebrity cameos that not only contribute to the modern-day realism of the film, but also invite re-watches to catch all of them. For instance, Blanc is introduced playing Among Us in his bathtub while on Zoom with a group that criticizes him for his poor performance. Not only is this scene nostalgic and hilarious, but a closer look reveals that Blanc is playing with mystery superstars like Angela Lansbury, the star of “Murder, She Wrote” and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA-superstar-turned-mystery-novelist. Other cameos include Hugh Grant playing Blanc’s partner, Yo-Yo Ma as an attendee at Birdie Jay’s party, Serena Williams as a virtual fitness coach, and even Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the voice of Bron’s hourly “gong” on the island.
While “Glass Onion” could be a strong stand-alone mystery-comedy film, it is a sequel to the titular “Knives Out” from 2019. “Knives Out” begins with the apparent suicide of successful crime novelist Harlan Plummer, but Blanc’s anonymous invitation to assist with the case reveals a more sinister cause of death. The main character of the film is Marta, Harlan’s nurse, who believes she is responsible for Harlan’s death. However, a shocking twist reveals that Harlan’s nephew and family outcast Ransom organized an elaborate scheme to frame Marta and kill Harlan. The film concludes with Marta looking down at the wealthy family from her new porch, as Harlan left the house and all his assets to his faithful friend and caretaker.
The films absolutely hold their own, but do share several similarities. First of all, the films both have star-studded casts who deliver exceptional performances. The cast of “Knives Out” features Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Toni Collette and Ana de Armas while “Glass Onion”’s cast includes Edward Norton, Kathryn Hahn, Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr., Dave Bautista and of course, the renowned Daniel Craig plays master detective Benoit Blanc in both films.
In addition, the films address social issues cleverly through the storyline. In “Knives Out,” the class distinction between Marta and the family is highlighted frequently, as well as the family’s direct and indirect treatment of Marta for being an immigrant. “Glass Onion” also addresses classism by highlighting the insane lifestyles of uber-wealthy elites like Miles — who represent real-life out-of-touch tech giants like Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg — as well as the systemic complacency of those who benefit from such wealth and power. The masterful, unpredictable plot twists characterize both films, and are revealed through a similar manner of revisiting scenes through new angles. Finally, both films have cathartic endings where the good characters prevail and the bad ones unequivocally lose.
Despite their many similarities in themes and structure, the two films also have distinct differences. One massive change from “Knives Out” to its sequel is the starring character. In “Knives Out,” De Armas’ character Marta is the protagonist, and Blanc plays an important but inarguably supporting role, whereas “Glass Onion” flips the script; Blanc is the star, and ‘Andi’/Helen is the crucial supporting character. Also, despite sharing clever and at times, dark comedy, Glass Onion is funnier and more lighthearted than “Knives Out.” “Glass Onion”’s specific setting of early-COVID also distinguishes it from its predecessor which had a modern but not time-specific setting. Finally, while both are exceptional films, “Knives Out” appeared to utilize the time-jumping tool to provide crucial plot details more seamlessly by including multiple flashbacks, while “Glass Onion” relies on a kind of ‘rewind’ technique.
“Knives Out” and “Glass Onion” are both mystery masterpieces, but provide distinct takes on the genre. “Knives Out” is a more traditional ‘whodunnit’ murder mystery; it’s numerous twists and turns are interwoven with clever humor and political messages. “Glass Onion” is a more laid-back take on a murder mystery; there initially is no real murder (that the viewers are aware of), and the scenarios and antics of the zany cast are more comedic than suspenseful. Overall, any fan of the “Knives Out” series should look forward to what else Rian Johnson has in store for Benoit Blanc.
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