Peeling back the layers of Rian Johnson’s ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’

Justine Fisch

On Nov. 23, the highly anticipated sequel to the 2019 murder mystery masterpiece, “Knives Out,” was released. As someone who loves a good murder mystery, I had high expectations for “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (“Glass Onion”), and I must say, although the movie did not exceed the original, it was certainly unexpected.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery movie poster. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

In my mind, there are three factors that make up a great murder mystery. The first factor, and this typically goes for most movies, is acting performance. If the screams of terror or unanticipated deaths are either unbelievable or difficult to watch, the experience is going to be a far less than enjoyable hour and a half. Second, the motive of the culprit is always 10 times better when they have an outrageously clever backstory. Third, and most importantly, the movie cannot be predictable. To put it more simply, the audience should be on their toes for the entire movie. If I can tell you who dunnit, where and why within the first hour, it’s both highly unsatisfying and not worth my time.

Although “Glass Onion” definitely offered some memorable performances, it was overall inferior to the original. Unlike “Knives Out,” “Glass Onion” features more flashy, influential and rich (literally) characters. The story follows a group of five friends who each have deep, personal and professional connections with the self-proclaimed “gazillionaire,” Miles Bron (Edward Norton). The cast consists of an eccentric group of characters, including model and influencer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), men’s rights Youtuber Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), his fairly one-dimensional girlfriend, Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), well-known scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), Miles’ former business partner, Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe) and local politician Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn).

Glancing at detective Benoit Blanc, “the disrupters” gather their suspicions. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

These friends, self-labeled as the “disrupters,” are invited to spend the weekend at Miles’ private island to participate in a fun, harmless game to solve the mystery of his fake murder. Along with the five friends, world-renowned detective and the only returning cast member, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), sporting his controversially loved and hated Foghorn Leghorn Drawl accent, also receives a surprise invitation to this supposedly exclusive vacation.  

While this film features a seasoned cast, it seemed that most of these actors’ potential was wasted. The best performances came from Janelle Monáe and Danielle Craig, but, unfortunately, there were somewhat disappointing performances from Leslie Odom Jr. and Kathryn Hahn, whose potential was frustratingly wasted throughout the film. Along with the underutilization of versatile actors, my excitement throughout the film heavily fluctuated. While the beginning and end of the movie were filled with lavish settings and rapidly unfolding plots, the middle lagged slightly until an unexpected twist, when a new character’s perspective emerged. 

Overall, this movie, although not quite as polished as the original, was both unpredictable and unlike a traditional murder mystery, with some well-timed comedic relief to keep theme with an absurd cast of characters. In general, the movie itself was reflective of its title, “Glass Onion,” as you peeled back the layers of the onion, the deeper you plunged into Johnson’s elaborate world of hidden clues and deception. And although the movie didn’t make me cry, it was certainly both memorable and enticing.