Peeling Back the Layers of Glass Onion

Does the recently released sequel match the hype of its captivating predecessor?

Brady Crow, Staff Writer

2019 was arguably one of the best years for contemporary cinema.  With massive titles such as 1917, John Wick 3, Us, Jojo Rabbit, and Avengers Endgame, the box office was booming as audiences flocked to the theaters in a pre-Covid world.  Among these theatrical hits was a unique murder mystery film whose star-studded cast attracted much attention.  This film was Knives Out, a revolutionary dark comedy thriller that left a lasting impact in the entertainment world. 

Knives Out was director Rian Johnson’s take on a comedic murder mystery.  The story surrounded a wealthy family after the murder of their patriarch, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plumber). World class detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), Thrombey’s grandson Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans), and Thrombey’s caretaker Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas) unearth the ugly full story.  Knives Out received immediate critical acclaim for its fantastic acting, witty writing, and well-crafted storyline.  It was evident from both critics and audiences that a sequel was both in order and desired.

Fast forward to December 2022 and the Knives Out sequel, Glass Onion, dropped on Netflix.  With an equally popular cast, strong writing team, and a masterful predecessor to follow, Glass Onion was met with both excitement and lofty expectations. Although sequels have been notorious in the movie world for ruining franchises, Glass Onion successfully met its predecessor’s acclaim and quality.

The story of Glass Onion follows Blanc after he mysteriously gets invited to a wealthy private island in the Mediterranean.  As it turns out, the island is owned by billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), who invited some of his closest friends to partake in a murder mystery weekend.  Although the weekend getaway starts innocently enough, corruption and blackmail soon make the once tranquil island an active crime scene.  Not much more can be said about Glass Onion without spoiling large portions of the fantastic plot. 

Glass Onion is not an immediate or relative sequel to Knives Out.  Besides detective Blanc, no characters from the first movie make a reappearance.  Both Knives Out and Glass Onion are murder mysteries at their core.  However, both movies have vastly different plots, settings, characters, and messages.

Knives Out took place mainly in a rustic and secluded mansion, while Glass Onion is set mostly on an elite private island.  Knives Out was most likely set in 2019, the year it was released,  whereas Glass Onion takes place a year later in 2020, near the start of the pandemic.  Interestingly, Glass Onion smartly incorporates the Covid-19 virus into the plot.  Masks were even cleverly incorporated into the character’s costumes, foreshadowing subtle details about each suspect.

Geraldine Johansson via Creative Commons

Glass Onion also uses its impressive all-star cast to great effect.  As with Knives Out, Daniel Craig’s portrayal of Benoit Blanc is both brilliant, humorous, and memorable, carrying the most important aspects of the mystery.  Arguably, Craig brings significantly more charm to his character than in the prior film. 

Edward Norton’s portrayal of Miles Bron is also a standout performance due to his subtle speech patterns, offbeat and arrogant humor, and energetic attitude. Janelle Monae’s character of Andi Brand is additionally strong and well developed, a perfect secondary character in the film. 

The rest of the distinguished cast also shine in their own ways throughout the film.  In a twist of irony, certain other celebrities make minor cameos so small, they may be missed.  Ethan Hawke, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Yo-Yo Ma make minor appearances in the movie that only attentive viewers may catch.

As for the mystery itself, Glass Onion concocts an amazing and suspenseful saga.  Every suspect and event adds a layer to the plot, shrouding the movie in an air of secrecy and intrigue.  The solution to the mystery is equally clever and unpredictable.  Many viewers may even want to rewatch the film in order to catch all of the clues and details embedded in the dialogue and set.

Glass Onion’s most memorable aspect is surprisingly its commitment to an awe-inspiring backdrop.  The cinematography, score, and colors of Glass Onion are stylistically amazing.  A tropical vibe for an old fashioned murder mystery is refreshing and innovative.  The private island where much of the movie takes place is additionally very well imagined, with even mundane features hinting at major character details.

Like its predecessor, Glass Onion makes sly comments towards social structure, taking subtle digs where no one and nothing is seemingly off limits.  Both movies are critical of the entitled and corrupt nature of wealthy elites.  Knives Out mainly focuses on how those in opulent groups can often become greedy and idolize money above all else.  Glass Onion, on the other hand, makes its social commentary on how the controlling inner circles of wealth in society are corrupt, self-centered and manipulative.  Political takes in movies are often met with controversy, but in this case, both political parties can agree that the ultra rich are often not the wonderful people they’d let you believe they are. 

Glass Onion is the perfect mystery movie to enjoy this winter.  Whether you like mysteries, celebrities, tropical islands, or just a good movie, Glass Onion lived up to its predecessor and crafted an amazing movie. It truly makes one wonder if a third installment might be contemplated. One can only hope.