Films have rolled out like potatoes since Knives Out was a surprise hit just before the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. The cinema release schedules were scrambled in a way that streamer Netflix couldn’t have imagined in their most disruptive dreams, giving them the kind of financial muscle required to hive the further adventures of detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) away from the big screens. Netflix demonstrated further clout by negotiating a week’s screenings in cinemas well within the usual 45 day window required for leading cinema chains; Rian Johnson’s whodunit now drops on Dec 23rd in most territories.
Glass Onion offers the same blend of glam, hip comedy and tight, detailed detection that made the first film work so well. Billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) invites a group of old friends or ‘disruptors’ to his remote island retreat; he sends each guest a puzzle box containing an invite, one of which arrives at the door of Blanc. The gentleman sleuth travels to Greece and joins the party, where Bron promises his guests a ‘murder mystery’ game, which Benoit amusingly solves instantly; this isn’t his first rodeo, murder or mystery. But as it turns out, the game has actually being going on for some time already; as with Knives Out, Johnson upends clichés and allows for elegant, ingenious reversals of fortune.
Janelle Monáe really is the stand-out here as an uberglam guest who can’t really be described, although it’s always a pleasure to see a feature based around a central comic performance, and Craig relishes the opportunity to give Blanc as many layers as the Glass Onion of the title. Kathryn Hahn and Kate Hudson seem to enjoy their catfights and there’s well-timed cameos from several big stars including Hugh Grant as Benoit’s domestic partner. With impressive sets and locations, Glass Onion has some high-tech additions that verge on sci-fi, but the messaging on billionaires is familiar enough; they’re awful.
The rise of the big and small screen detective of late can partly be attributed to Knives Out, but also to the promise of a closed, rich, busy, satisfying narrative, and some top tier entertainment along the way. In an era of extended franchises and bubble-gum worlds where nothing ever really happens and no-one ever dies, whodunnits and intense thrillers feel like a genuine way forward in terms of future cinematic content. If Glass Onion isn’t quite as fresh as the first film, it’s still got wit and style to boot, and that means that large audiences should enjoy watching the detectives over the 2022 festive period, even if this big-screen movie will be most widely viewed on household tvs by slumbering, inebriated, distracted viewers.