Worthy to Stand on Its Own: A “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” review

Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is a fresh take on the detective genre and an overall stunning film.


Bee Bishop, Editor in Chief

I’ve always had a passion for detective movies; nothing truly compares with watching the detective unfold the complex murder plot in five minutes, pointing out clues you may or may not have picked up along the way. The ending is my favorite part. The more satisfying the ending is, the more I like the movie. It scratches that itch in my brain that normal puzzles or riddles can’t.

I was a big fan of Rian Johnson’s 2019 murder mystery movie “Knives Out.” I was also elated to find out Johnson would make a sequel movie, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” which I will be addressing as “Glass Onion” for simplicity. The film had a limited theatrical release from Nov. 23 to Nov. 29, which I was fortunate enough to be able to see on the big screen. Overall, “Glass Onion” scratches that itch in my brain for a solid mystery movie with a satisfying ending, but misses the mark in a few areas. 

The plot follows Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc, a world-famous private detective, as he embarks on a weekend getaway to a private Greek island owned by a tech billionaire, Edward Norton’s Miles Bron, to participate in a murder mystery dinner party. The other guests consist of Kathryn Hahn’s Claire Debella, Leslie Odom Jr.’s Lionel Toussaint, Kate Hudson’s Birdie Jay, and Dave Bautista’s Duke Cody; all of whom play individuals who heavily rely on Bron and have every reason to want him dead. The sudden appearance of Janelle Monáe’s Andi Brand, Bron’s business partner who he recently booted out of their shared company, sparks the flame that sets the movie in motion. Like clockwork, tensions spill over, leaving Blanc to clean up the mess that leaves a dead body or two in its wake. 

While, I won’t give too much away plot wise– because this movie definitely deserves a spot on anyone’s watchlist– I have to discuss the ending. The final 10 or so minutes was an explosive and satisfying conclusion with one of the most awe inspiring and righteous acts of revenge I’ve ever seen in a movie. The closing moments of the movie have some of the most astonishing and memorable shots of the whole film.

The costumes and outfits of the characters were fantastical and stunning as well. Most noticeable would be Hudson’s Birdie Jay, who is consistently dressed in bright, bold fashion statements that always had the right amount of garish attitude and drama. Jenny Eagan was the costume designer for “Glass Onion” and previously worked with Johnson in 2019 for “Knives Out,” which creates a consistent visual between the two films.

In regards to the rest of the film, visually speaking, the movie is quite stunning. The scenery is nothing less than drop dead gorgeous and vivid– sometimes I swear I could have felt the sun washing over me as I sat in the theater. Johnson has a distinct style that showcases the breathtaking scenery and vibrant characters perfectly. The most eye-catching scenery was the titular Glass Onion, which serves as the central location for this mystery and Bron’s functional house: the Onion is a huge half-football-shaped structure made entirely out of glass, with a grand staircase leading up to it and a pool and garden worthy of the most expensive spa resort. It’s obnoxious, gaudy and almost as big as Miles Bron’s ego. 

While writing and visuals are essential to making a good film, what puts “Glass Onion” over the top is the characters. Craig gives the same high energy performance he gave back in 2019 for his character’s first appearance in “Knives Out.” Blanc is the only returning character from the previous movie, and, thankfully, “Glass Onion” doesn’t play too heavily on prior events. I won’t say Blanc’s character has changed much – because he hasn’t changed, and quite frankly, I don’t think he needs to – however, the audience gets to see a bit more of his introspection and thought process. The result is a softer, gentler Benoit Blanc, that was hinted at in the first movie, being pushed front and center. 

In opposition stands Norton’s character. Miles Bron is a cutthroat and chaotic character, balancing out Craig’s tender hearted nature. While Bron may remind audiences of a specific tech billionaire, Johnson said in an interview with Deadline that he didn’t base the character on any one specific individual, instead choosing to create a character who felt distinct. Combined with a whiny tone and a smug attitude, Norton masterfully portrays a character who is simultaneously threatening and pathetic. 

However, while the movie centers on Craig’s and Norton’s character, Monáe’s performance is the backbone, life blood and breath in this movie’s lungs. Monáe was captivating, drawing my attention every time she was on screen. This movie had her set up to play two characters, Andi Brand and her twin sister Helen, and Monáe gives a perfect distinction between the two characters that still leaves the movie enjoyable on a rewatch.

Alas, no movie is perfect. While Craig, Norton and Monáe’s characters are charming and drive the movie, the rest kind of fall into the background and don’t really do much. I suppose it could be interpreted that this is the entire point of these characters, people who are destined to be considered underlings of a rich egomaniac. Or to keep consistent with the metaphor of the glass onion – something that seems to have a lot of layers or is intensely complex, but you can see right through to the center, rendering those layers as meaningless or unimportant. However, that still left me wanting to see more interaction between the characters or internal motivation of specific characters, such as Odom, Jr.’s Lionel Toussaint. 

Toussaint sticks out from the rest of the crowd. Out of the rest of the characters, he seems like the one most likely to have a genuine relationship with Bron as they work close together. However, he seems oddly estranged from his friend and boss, which leaves me wanting more of Odom, Jr. on screen with a deeper exploration of how he fits in with these characters.

Additionally, the movie’s plot was structured in a nonlinear fashion, making it a little difficult to follow. The movie begins in the middle of the action but backtracks halfway through to cover information and context that is essential to the rest of the film. The transition is a little jarring and may cause some confusion; however, Johnson does utilize the confusion and disorientation to create more tension and further build the stakes of the lead characters. 

But my biggest grievance with the movie, and the most detrimental to its case, is the title. “Glass Onion” is not meant to be a follow up to Johnson’s previous movie “Knives Out” from 2019; it is meant to be its own separate story. The only thing that remains constant is the appearance of Craig’s character. Titling the movie “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” invited the viewer to compare the two films even though the previous movie has barely anything to do with the current one. 

If Johnson was looking to create a franchise revolving around Beniot Blanc, then the movie title should reference Blanc in some manner. The result may be a cheesier and more cliche title– such as Benoit Blanc and the Glass Onion – but the invitation to correlate “Knives Out” to “Glass Onion” is minimalized and, therefore, more effective to the story Johnson has set out to tell. 

All things considered, my critiques are much more nitpicky than anything. Johnson’s “Glass Onion” is a delightful romp that revitalizes the detective genre to a modern audience. And if mystery movies are not your thing, then I highly recommend watching for the stunning visual and gorgeous costume design. “Glass Onion” had a limited theatrical release from Nov. 23 to Nov. 29, but will be arriving on Netflix on Dec. 23. Grab some friends or family and enjoy.