Like a lot of us, the pandemic has not been kind to the world’s greatest detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, having a rip-roaring time here once again). Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion (which had its world premiere Saturday night at the Toronto International Film Festival) is set in 2020 during the worst part of the pandemic (don’t worry, I don’t like “pandemic” movies either, but this does it a great way … I’ll explain in a bit). And Benoit Blanc spends most oh his time hiding in his bathroom, soaking in his bathtub, reading books and playing games on Zoom with a group of friends that includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Then, one day, a mysterious box arrives that, after Benoit solves a few puzzles, opens up to reveal an invitation to a private island with a mansion called the Glass Onion, to attend “a murder mystery party” hosted by “a disrupter” named Miles Bron (Edward Norton, in full-on fast-talking asshole mode here, which is fantastic). Seemingly bored, Benoit Blanc decides to venture back out into the world and accepts the invitation.
The others invited to the game are also all considered “disrupters”: There’s Claire Debella, the governor of Connecticut (Kathryn Hahn); entrepreneur Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe); Lionel Toussaint, a scientist (Leslie Odom Jr.); Birdie Jar, a fashion designer (Kate Hudson); and social media star Duke Cody (Dave Bautista). When Benoit Blanc arrives at the island, a problem arises: Miles Bron recognizes the famous detective, but informs Benoit he wasn’t invited and asks what he’s doing there in the first place. (Which sets up a funny back and forth about if the murder mystery game has already started.) “Is you telling me I’m not invited part of the game?”, he asks, with Miles frustratingly assuring Benoit Blanc that this is not the case. Benoit then concludes that one of the other guests has invited him there, and that can only mean whoever it was believes a real murder will happen while on this island. And it will most likely be Miles as the victim. Miles then extends a formal invitation to Benoit Blanc.
I mentioned earlier this takes place in 2020 during the worst of the pandemic. I usually don’t like these movies. Being in New York City at that time was, let’s say, not fun. But the way Johnson handles it is the perfect way to do it. For instance, Kathryn Hawn accepts her invitation from a delivery driver but forgets to wear a mask then does that “tuck your shirt over your mouth” move we’ve all done at one point or another. Or Kate Hudson showing up in a “mask” that only consists of a few strings. It also would explain why all of these seemingly busy people would be so eager to travel to a private island for a weekend where the rules of the pandemic no longer apply. So far, this is the best use of the pandemic I’ve seen in a movie, used for comedic effect using daily situations we’ve all had to endure.
As you might have guessed from the title, this is a movie with many layers that aren’t what they appear to be and become more clear as everything is pulled back. (Also, the walrus was Paul.) This is about as far as I feel comfortable going with the actual plot of the movie other than that there is a stellar 2010: The Year We Make Contact reference that I laughed very hard at, then realized no one else was laughing. (I guess I’m the only one who has watched 2010: The Year We Make Contact recently. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a lot better than you probably think it is.) Also, Glass Onion makes great use of the word “fiddlesticks,” which I’ve decided to add to my daily vocabulary.
It’s so great Daniel Craig has found a role he really loves. He’s walked back some of the things he’s said about playing Bond, but it’s pretty obvious his heart wasn’t in it anymore. I truly believe he appreciates what Bond did for his career, but he had grown tired of the strain it takes to play Bond. In these Knives Out movies, he doesn’t really have to do any stunts. Instead, he gets to do a fun voice, make funny faces, and just have a great time. I hope Daniel Craig plays Benoit Blanc forever.
And on that same note, Rian Johnson, inexplicably, became one of the most polarizing directors working today. (I’m going out of my way not to say the name of the particular movie in question because I don’t want it popping up in a Google search, and then people start yelling at me on Twitter.) If you would have told me this in 2012, there is no way I’d have ever believed this. It’s truly baffling. But having said that, it’s so great he has this series, born from his love of the murder mystery genre. Last month, he programmed a few movies at the Paris Theater in New York City and I went to the 1978 version of Death on the Nile and a World War II-era film called Green For Danger – and you can see where a lot of his influences for these Knives Out movies comes from. Obviously the genre itself, but I’m talking about specific scenes. (He also programmed The Last of Sheila, a movie I watched somewhat recently, but it’s also a movie where there are specific moments he’s referencing.)
Glass Onion is just a great time watching a movie. It’s a rare movie (especially at a film festival where I have places I have to be) in which I wished it were longer. I would have gladly spent more time with these characters, played by actors who are all obviously having a wonderful time. I already miss them. Make more movies like this. What fun.
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