“Glass Onion”: A Multilayered Modern-Day Mystery

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After a limited release over Thanksgiving that aggregated $15 million in domestic box office, director and writer Rian Johnson’s murder mystery film “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” released on Netflix on Dec. 23, 2022. Starring Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monaé, and many other gifted actors, “Glass Onion” currently has an approval rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, receiving positive reviews for its clever plot, interesting characters, and exciting visuals.

“Glass Onion” takes place in the same universe as the 2019 film “Knives Out”, another murder mystery film by Rian Johnson that achieved tremendous success. Unconventionally utilizing the coronavirus pandemic as an inciting incident, the film follows detective Benoit Blanc to a Greek island after being invited by an eclectic billionaire to participate in a murder mystery party with his group of intriguing friends. Things go awry, however, when someone actually ends up dead, prompting an investigation full of twists and turns that leave viewers breathless. The actors filled the movie with humor and life, earning considerable amounts of praise from critics. 

“‘Glass Onion’ is saturated with enchanting moments and quick-witted dialogue, along with Janelle Monáe’s wonderful performance,” Chicago Times writer Maxwell Rabb said in his review. “Johnson’s dexterity for mystery and suspense is on full display, delicately delivered as a series of twists and shocks.” 

While there is a consensus that “Glass Onion” doesn’t dive as deep into characters as its predecessor “Knives Out”, most agree that enjoyment is still abundant in the beautiful shots and mirthful writing of the film. It is currently the third most watched movie in Netflix history. 

“Johnson certainly delights in creating puzzling distractions, but even if his film is as deep as a layer of onion skin, it is immensely engaging,” Gary M. Kramer of Salon.com said. “‘Glass Onion’ gently mocks its characters, which is what makes it so enjoyable.” 

Indeed, “Glass Onion” delights in satirizing its wealthy characters, such as a men’s rights activist, a politically incorrect fashion model, and a shallow politician. In fact, the movie’s unfavorable view of the rich and its allusions to real-life celebrities has resulted in it receiving some backlash. 

Even if his film is as deep as a layer of onion skin, it is immensely engaging.”

— Gary M. Kramer

“Rian Johnson’s politics [are] as lazy as his writing,” conservative commentator Ben Shapiro said on Twitter, going on to rage against the (deliberately) deceptive nature of the film. “The first half of the movie is a complete misdirect and a waste of time.” 

Despite the deeper implications and debates about “Glass Onion”’s portrayal of social class, fame, and wealth, the film is, at its core, a comedic murder mystery film with enjoyment abound. 

“I think [director] Rian [Johnson] said it best,” lead actress Janelle Monaé said in a Deadline interview. “It’s about bad people on a beautiful island, and a brilliant detective.”

Fans of the “Knives Out” universe can look forward to more funny, subversive additions to the franchise in the future. If “Glass Onion” is any indication, the sequels will continue to be top quality entries to the mystery genre. 

“As long as Daniel [Craig] and I are having fun and coming up with something new and exciting every time, we’ll keep doing this as long as we can,” Johnson said to RadioTimes. “As long as we can keep making people laugh, we’ll do it.”