Glass Onion Movie Review

Benji Boyd, Sophomore

A glass onion: an object that seems densely layered, but in reality, the center is in plain sight. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is the sequel to the adventures of the world’s greatest detective, Benoit Blanc. Since his debut in Knives Out (2017), the world has been reawakened to the wildly entertaining world of the ‘whodunit’ and eagerly awaiting the return of Daniel Craig’s southern sleuth for another cleverly crafted Christieesque murder mystery. After the hit that revived a genre, Glass Onion had big shoes to fill. So did Netflx and director Rian Johnson deliver?

To answer this question, we’ll have to peel this movie back layer by layer. Within the story, there are many glass onions. The most obvious one is the giant luxury complex built by obnoxious billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) on an island in Greece to give his elite group of friends a place to relax for the weekend. Obsessed with image and metaphor, Miles built his house in the shape of a glass onion as an homage to the bar where the friends used to hang out before they all made it big. Only Benoit Blanc, an unlikely addition to the millionaire party, is suspicious of the secrets hidden within its see-through layers.

As the friends try to relax, Benoit begins to sense trouble in paradise. Not only is the group wrought with internal turmoil over a lawsuit against one of their own, but also the success of each famous member is not as stable as it appears. A fashion star with a worse human rights record than Twitter history, a politician relying on untrustworthy campaign support, and a Twitch streamer whose views dictate his entire persona make up only part of this dysfunctional entourage.

When solving any mystery – or writing any good movie review – the first step should always be to analyze the characters. What do they want? What do they represent? Who are they really? Similar to many questions asked throughout the film, the answer is remarkably simple: these characters are exactly as they appear. They want what’s best for themselves, and no one else. They each not so subtly represent an unsavory aspect of our modern elite class and American society as a whole: fast fashion, political corruption, monetization of scientific progress, and influencer culture. And finally, they are all so vapid and self-obsessed that they constantly misuse big words and incorrectly describe philosophical theories in order to give themselves the illusion of depth. On the surface they may seem complex, but there’s nothing at their cores. In short, the characters are just a bunch of glass onions.

When we think of the glass onion in this context – as something that seems like it should have meaning but doesn’t – another literary term comes to mind: Chekhov’s Gun. The nineteenth century playwright Anton Chekhov wrote, “Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.” This advice has been generally accepted as law in most literary genres, no more so than mysteries. Going into a murder mystery movie, the experienced viewer will immediately be on the lookout for small details that will later come back and become relevant. Oftentimes this makes the conclusion all the more satisfying as all the loose ends are brought together. However, Glass Onion was not nearly as satisfying as its predecessor Knives Out. Why? Because it was chalk full of Chekhov’s Guns.

The Mona Lisa. A loaded harpoon gun. A random guy named Derol who kept kind of popping up. Glass Onion danced on Chekhov’s grave with all the things it brought attention to and then never integrated into the mystery. However, it was the things we didn’t notice that turned out to be the most important. So does that make Glass Onion a bad story, or a great one?

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