GLASS ONION Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Tony's Looking through a Glass Onion.

When Knives Out dropped into the world in 2019, it was the most glorious oddity – a kind of hardcore Hercule Poirot-style movie of familial entanglements, double-crosses around the death of a famous mystery novelist, Harlan Thrombey. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, and including a cast of some of Hollywood’s finest, it introduced Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc as a famous detective with a wildly improbable accent, and the setup modernized the traditional Poirot “country house setting with a backstabbing family of rum characters” model of almost cliched crime stories, hooking a new generation into the genre. 

Perhaps it was indicative of the times, but as the world fell into lockdowns and panic, Knives Out felt like a format-reinvention whose time had come, something both familiar and fresh, and it landed well with audiences around the world. 

The Next Adventure 

Glass Onion, now on Netflix, is in no particular sense a sequel to Knives Out, but it’s the second of “the Benoit Blanc” mysteries, and it takes another recognizable type of classic Hercule Poirot story and brings it almost screamingly up to date – with a little joyously pointed social satire added into the mix.  

Where Knives Out was all about the claustrophobic atmosphere of a home, a family, and its varied reasons to want to see one another dead or incarcerated, Glass Onion is much more a celebration of the “openly contrived” Poirot story – the group of people invited to an isolated location for an occasion, at which tensions will rise, secrets will emerge, and eventually, blood will spill. 

We’ve said this is a celebration of Poirot-style murder mysteries, but actually in its fundamentals, it has more in common with Agatha Christie’s significant standalone story, And Then There Were None – to the point of the first murder witnessed on screen being predictable significantly ahead of time if you’ve recently watched any version of the Christie original. But the joy and the class of Glass Onion lies as much in its casting and its social satire as it does in the solving of a handful of convoluted murders. 

The Disruptors 

Edward Norton plays Miles Bron, a tech billionaire who, from time to time, gets together with a group of old friends and financial dependents who call themselves “The Disruptors” – by which simple fact you know you’re dealing with a group of loathsome assholes, any one of whom could die without diminishing the overall level of human joy one ounce 

Bron has his own private island, and in the middle of it, the “Glass Onion” of the title – a kind of gloriously brash biodome, to which he’s invited his friends and dependents, to solve his own murder. 

Ghoulish, of course, but only from the point of view of the movie’s viewers – this kind of thing is apparently quite like him, and what the guests expect is what he has actually planned, a staged murder mystery, with himself as victim, before the rest of the weekend carries on as normal with them all hanging out and catching up. 

The fact that Norton’s Bron is recognisable as an Elon Musk parody is, by all accounts, especially Rian Johnson’s, simply a horrible accident, as Musk has evolved his public douchebaggery an enormous amount during the last 12 months, presumably after the movie was scripted and shot. Similarly, Dave Bautista’s gloriously unsubtle role as men’s rights activist Duke Cody only reminds us of Andrew Tate thanks to the latter’s spectacular recent self-own and imprisonment, though his portrayal as living with his interfering old mother while promoting ultra-machismo would be delicious at any point. 

Self-Revolving Idiots 

There’s no similar real-world flashpoint of news recognition for Kate Hudson’s model-turned-designer, Birdie Jay, though her attitude of “I just tell the truth, and people can’t handle it” is very familiar generally, and gives Craig’s Blanc the set-up to one of a handful of the film’s best lines. 

These and a handful of other Bron acolytes are on the island for Miles’ murder mystery party, but there are two immediate sources of tension. The ever-superb Janelle Monae casts a distinct frost over events as Andi Brand, Miles’ ex-business partner, who walked when Bron began dabbling in the hydrogen-based clean superfuel of the future – and who was subsequently taken through the courts to dispute her part in the start of the Bron empire. Each of the Bron dependents testified that she had nothing to do with the founding of Bron’s lead money-making idea, so her inclusion on the island is at best ill-advised and at worst, deeply suspicious. 

And secondly, there’s Benoit Blanc, the world’s greatest detective. Each of the Disruptors was sent an invitation to the event in the form of an elegantly constructed puzzle box. And so was Blanc – except, curiously, Bron never sent him a box. So who among the invited guests wants the great detective there, too?


After Blanc busts in seconds the whole complex murder game that was supposed to take days to play out, that becomes a question even more worth asking. And as people begin to die, the hidden and bubbling secrets that connect them come out. The politician who’s staked her career on Bron’s unstable and untested fuel source (Kathryn Hahn giving a perfectly overstressed performance). The scientist who knows the fuel is unstable but can’t say anything (Leslie Odom Jr). The designer with a secret that must come out and ruin her simply because she’s so fundamentally stupid and self-involved (Hudson). The influencer prepared to send their girlfriend to Bron’s bed just to get slots on a high-profile show… 

The Great Detective 

And in the centre of it all, there’s Benoit Blanc. Craig seems to file the abrasive edges off his demented Knives Out accent here, and to be a conspicuous cat among the pigeons. Driven to take the case initially by a Sherlock Holmes-style boredom during lockdown, he dispatches the fake murder plot quickly and acts as a constant for the viewer in a swirling sea of motivations that are very modern and believable in our social media world. The chief joy of which, apart from the placing of Blanc in the LGBTQ community by a cameo from Hugh Grant, is that he’s utterly dismissive of all the self-regarding cleverness of the other guests, up to and including their host.  

If you’ve ever wanted to burn the self-revolving self-importance of internet influencers to the ground, this is a movie you’ll love. And while it gives you that catharsis at several points, including a fiery conclusion, it also delivers on every score as a mystery. Involving intertwined life stories – check. Superb performances – check – Janelle Monae especially is beyond impressive here. Several species of highly plausible red herring – check. Pacing that keeps you pounding along through a mid-movie reveal that changes everything – check.  

And above all, Glass Onion feels like a more inherently ambitious movie than its predecessor, not only reinventing and repackaging classic crime tropes with a celebrity cast and delivering a rip-roaring whodunnit, but balancing all that with a brighter, less claustrophobic feel and a dose of social satire, too. 

The Mystery Of Our Age 

Glass Onion is a whodunnit of our age, challenging the idea that internet fame or notoriety equates to anything other than luck and ruthlessness. The notion that, for instance, a Musk-alike such as Miles Bron is somehow rendered non-idiotic simply by the possession of lots of money is skewered wholeheartedly. Several of the lead characters engage in behaviour that, were they not incredibly rich, would earn them a spot on society’s Naughty Step, and the film balances the business of showing us that with a cracking and complex mystery plot and a pivotal performance that underscores What James Bond Did Next.  

There’s a third Benoit Blanc movie in the works – and on the evidence of Glass Onion, there’s no reason why the franchise shouldn’t run and run. Better for my money than Knives Out (other opinions are available), Glass Onion raises the game, balances satire and crime deliciously, and gives a platform for some truly exquisite performances.  

Tony Fyler lives in a concrete cave, somewhere on the edge of the sea, with his wife, who exists, and the Fictional People In His Head, who don't as yet. A journalist and editor by day, he has written Some Books, and is more or less always writing another. One day, he may even get around to showing them to people. In the meantime, he's Script Editor and occasional Executive Producer at Third Time Lucky Productions, and a proud watcher of things no-one remembers they remember until they remember.

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