As a part of our protection of the forty seventh annual Toronto Worldwide Movie Competition, Meg Shields critiques Rian Johnson’s homicide thriller sequel, ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Thriller’. Observe together with extra protection in our Toronto Worldwide Movie Competition archives.
Southern-fried celeb sleuth Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) has spent a lot of the pandemic languishing in his bathtub. With no twisty, murderous capers to crack, the downcast detective is at a loss for how one can occupy his ever-whirring thoughts.
Then, a case falls into his lap. Or reasonably, a puzzle field: a garishly intricate invitation to an unique homicide mystery-themed island getaway hosted by none apart from the eccentric entrepreneur Miles Bron (Edward Norton). Alongside for the experience are Bron’s intimate gang of shit-disturbers: an ever-canceled fashionista (Kate Hudson) and her norm-core assistant (Jessica Henwick); an influencer who peddles in poisonous masculinity (Dave Bautista) and his complicit girlfriend, Whiskey (Madelyn Cline); a hypocritical leftist senator (Kathryn Hahn), and a scientist keen to wave his morals for grant cash (Leslie Odom Jr.).
Dressed like the key fourth dad from Mama Mia!, Blanc seems like an outsider amongst these new cash jack-offs (although the presence of Bron’s steely former enterprise companion, Cassandra Model (Janelle Monáe), definitely raises eyebrows). However as tensions aptitude and we uncover that every of those folks would profit vastly from Bron’s loss of life, it turns into more and more clear that Blanc’s presence on the celebration is not any accident.
In some ways, Glass Onion improves upon its predecessor. The place the primary movie’s unwieldy baseball group of A-Listers made retaining observe of all of the motives and alibis extra complicated than difficult, it’s a reduction that Glass Onion’s roster can comfortably slot in a single body. As with the diminished forged, the choice to primarily set the proceedings on an remoted personal island (flashbacks apart) does double obligation of retaining issues targeted whereas invoking the style’s lengthy historical past of confining suspects and sleuths alike at sea. Is Glass Onion in the identical league as And Then There Had been None or The Final of Shiela? In fact not. However I don’t suppose it’s making an attempt to be (extra on that later).
Inarguably, Glass Onion is Monáe’s movie for causes that I can’t say right here with out upsetting the comically giant shepherd’s criminal lurking simply off-stage. Bautista’s Duke — a testosterone supplement-slinging Twitch streamer — is one other standout. And for his half, Craig’s Foghorn Leghorn impression could be grating if writer-director Rian Johnson didn’t properly allocate him to the sidelines to lounge about in linen and guffaw every so often. Everyone seems to be clearly having a grand ole’ sunkissed time, and the vibe is catchy.
Whereas Glass Onion boasts a contagiously playful construction, the movie does endure from the self-satisfied vitality that tinged the collection’ first entry. As with the unique Knives Out, Johnson nonetheless hasn’t fairly discovered how one can weave his unapologetic political theses right into a comedic cloth with out conjuring Jeb Bush’s “please clap” vitality. (There’s actually a second early within the movie the place Craig pauses for the viewers to applaud after asserting a fortune cookie-like assertion that talking thoughtlessly is dangerous, really).
Glass Onion’s thematic grandstanding is a part of a much bigger challenge of self-indulgence. There are gratuitous cameos on this movie that serve completely no narrative goal apart from to please individuals who get pleasure from seeing folks they acknowledge on-screen, nevertheless briefly. There are additionally quite a lot of namedrops that (I suppose) communicate to the homicide suspects’ showy douchebaggery however finally come throughout as hole popular culture gestures that can age like bitter cream in a sauna. (Talking of saunas, the pandemic jokes really feel particularly sweaty and an extension of the fleeting “oh hey, I do know that!” thrill of celeb walk-ons).
In the course of the Q&A that adopted my screening, Johnson talked about that, as a viewer, he prefers to strategy homicide mysteries as curler coasters reasonably than puzzles. And reality be advised, for those who come at Glass Onion along with your cork board and crimson string on the prepared, you’re going to have a foul time … specifically as a result of if you already know what to search for, the thriller solves itself earlier than the primary physique drops. This movie is actively relying on you throwing your palms up within the air and having fun with the experience for what it’s reasonably than, you already know, paying shut consideration.
So for those who’re coming into Glass Onion with the hope of being genuinely challenged by an intricate thriller, it is advisable to bark up one other tree. This movie is completely not making an attempt to reinvent the wheel. And it even arguably even punishes those that have seen and loved sufficient homicide mysteries to be watchful for early act sleight of hand.
In consequence, when the movie lastly arrives at its wildly self-satisfied conclusion, its smugness feels each unearned and a bit insulting. With out giving something away, the movie ends with the butt-covering transfer that, very similar to the “disruptors” in Blanc’s midst, all of this murderous plotting was really method dumber than anybody ought to give it credit score for. By lampshading the homicide plot’s basicness as being dumb on goal, Johnson is allowed to have it each methods. And that the movie admonishes us for having the gall to take these folks severely feels each insulting and like a bizarre transfer to make in a post-Trump world.
As I stated, I loved Glass Onion greater than the unique Knives Out. And maybe I’ll get pleasure from Johnson’s third installment much more. Ultimately: Johnson is true. The movie is amusing if you strategy it passively, like a rollercoaster. However you may solely experience a rollercoaster so many instances. And I’m beginning to surprise when audiences will need one thing extra from their trendy homicide mysteries.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Thriller will play in choose theaters in November 2022 earlier than hitting Netflix on December twenty third. You may take a look at the trailer right here.