“It’s a dangerous thing to mistake speaking without thought for speaking the truth.”
That line from “Glass Onion” is so apt and memorable that it alone makes the film worthwhile.
But the “Knives Out” sequel has a lot more going for it than just good dialog.
Indeed, this new film offers everything needed to satisfy bated-breath fans of Rian Johnson’s dazzling 2019 whodunit: a broad, skilled cast; a strong sense of justice; and a fast, audacious plot paying tribute to classic mysteries while also one-upping many standard tropes.
At the same time, the sequel feels different enough from its predecessor to stand on its own — without the tag “A Knives Out Mystery,” which Netflix insisted on attaching to Johnson’s title.
As a family drama set in a Gothic mansion, the first film — for all its smart, twisty mystery — felt like an old-style tribute to Agatha Christie. “Glass Onion” is frankly modern: Set in a posh, glossy complex on a sunny Greek isle, it features tech mogul Miles Bron (Edward Norton) inviting several friends and business associates to a weekend bash that is part reunion and part murder-mystery game. Its plot-strands include social media, COVID-19 and a hot new energy source that purports to be both cheap and eco-friendly.
Somewhat deliberately styled like a game of Clue, “Glass Onion” seems less organic than the first film, with a plot so intricate and interwoven that I had trouble keeping up even when watching it a second time.
As in 1973’s similarly posh “Last of Sheila” — a crafty under-the-radar mystery of which Johnson is a huge fan — the “mystery-game” set-up quickly gets out of hand, with real crime overwhelming what the host had prearranged. And as in the 2019 money-maker, “Glass Onion” serves up its key reveal about halfway through; but unlike the first film, it then reruns much of the initial set-up, grippingly unfolding what was really going on as it rushes toward a smashing climax.
And I do mean smashing.
For me, one of the film’s biggest triumphs is the way Johnson goes for broke at the end; not only does he tie up all the loose ends in breathtaking fashion, but he also concludes with an unexpected moral and aesthetic cataclysm — one that assures punishment for those who deserve it so very much.
“Glass Onion” returns Daniel Craig as the ingenious Blanc, still sporting an unlikely Southern accent. Other stars include Leslie Odom Jr., Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista, Kate Hudson and Janelle Monae, whose work here is especially challenging for reasons I will not reveal.
The film also offers cool cameos from Hugh Grant, Ethan Hawke, Yo-Yo Ma and Serena Williams — along with murder-mystery queen Angela Lansbury and composer Stephen Sondheim, who co-wrote “Last of Sheila.” (Interestingly, we lost both of these latter figures in 2022, and their work here was among the last they did.)
Kudos also go to production designer Rick Heinrichs and composer Nathan Johnson, who is Rian’s cousin and worked on the first film.
Currently available on Netflix after a brief theatrical run in November, “Glass Onion” has been well received by critics and viewers, proving the wisdom of the streaming giant in signing Johnson for both this and a third “Knives Out” film later.
Personally, I’d love to see a franchise.