Though it falls short of its sublime predecessor, this grander and more complex sequel is still wildly funny and entertaining
In the franchise era, the words “inevitable” and “sequel” generally come together to form a grim portent. It’s therefore to Rian Johnson’s immense credit that almost as soon as Knives Out was released, the calls for a follow-up were nothing but enthusiastic, audiences hungry for more adventures with Daniel Craig’s charming Southern sleuth Benoit Blanc. Whodunits thrive on solid formula and iconic leading detectives, which Knives Out delivered in spades and, though not quite as good as its predecessor, Glass Onion is another magnificently entertaining outing for its droll detective.
It’s hard to get into the weeds of Glass Onion’s plot without stepping on a major spoiler, but Johnson certainly abides by the old sequel adage of bigger being better. Far from the New England country house of Knives Out, we’re now on a private Greek island, owned by Elon Musk-esque tech multi-billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), to which Blanc has been invited to participate in a very exclusive murder-mystery game alongside Bron and his inner circle. Needless to say, though, there’s soon a very real dead body and some equally real danger, and it’s once again up to Blanc to sift through the awful lives of the rich and entitled to find the truth.
This new set of suspects, from Bron to Men’s Rights influencer Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) via permanently-cancelled fashionista Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) and plenty more, are fun, but also serve as Glass Onion’s biggest step down from Knives Out. In the original, for all their silly dreadfulness, the Thrombeys felt like a real, dysfunctional family unit, but here everyone is far more of a caricature, based off of easily identifiable Twitter-personality archetypes that will surely make Glass Onion feel rather dated in the not-too-distant future.
It makes the humour just a little more grating, though the ensemble themselves still turn in immensely enjoyable performances, even if it’s only Janelle Monae, as fellow tech mogul Cassandra Brand, who gets to play a real human. Hudson and Bautista are obvious comic highlights, and Kathryn Hahn, as eco-activist senator Claire Debella gets more than a few showstopping moments, while there are a ton of (maybe even a few too many) celebrity cameos. If the new cast aren’t quite as good as their predecessors, though, Craig makes up for it by somehow having even more fun here than he did in Knives Out, always delightful and hilarious and delivering a few world-class monologues as he peels back the layers of this strange case.
And it is a strange case, far less of a straightforward murder mystery than Knives Out. While the grander scope of the complexity does allow for some incredibly impressive plotting, it’s not quite as tight or satisfying here as it was in the original, with an overly expository middle-act and an ending that just goes a bit too big. On paper, this sounds like a harsher criticism than it is in practice; Glass Onion is still an undeniable joy to laugh and guess your way through, it just has the unenviable task of following up the best whodunit in a generation and, perhaps inevitably, falls short of that extremely high bar.
Even if bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better here, the mega Netflix budget does have its advantages. The location work here is gorgeous (visiting Bron’s island feeling almost as much like a holiday to us as it does to the characters) while the Glass Onion itself – a giant futuristic panopticon that serves as the centrepiece of Bron’s island compound – is mesmeric in its shiny and angular design, full of twinkling little details. Another great score from Nathan Johnson, again riffing on classic murder-mystery themes in a pleasingly nostalgic and playful way, completes the immersion.
Expecting the Knives Out sequel to surpass the original was probably foolish, but Glass Onion is still a fantastic night out at the movies – if you can, catch this with a crowd during its pre-streaming cinema release. Daniel Craig sinks even deeper into this most raucously funny of leading roles and I stick by my assessment from 2019 that I will happily watch these adventures for as long as Johnson and Craig are willing to keep making them. Long live Benoit Blanc.
Glass Onion was screened as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2022. It will be released in UK cinemas on 25 November.Where to watch