Writer-director Rian Johnson's 2019 whodunnit hit Knives Out challenged the conventions of how a murder mystery unfurls while using the genre to keep his thumb on the current social climate in the United States. His highly entertaining, intelligent introduction into the genre served as a witty commentary piece helmed by Daniel Craig's Southern-drawling delightful detective, Benoit Blanc. Johnson promised that Knives Out would expand into a franchise that kept Blanc as its centerpiece sleuth, assigning him to cover a unique case as the series builds upon itself.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery may be a mouthful of a title, though, in context to the sequel, Johnson knows what keywords to hit. Just as its name promises more mystery to follow Knives Out, the sequel parallels the intrigue of the first. Johnson noted that he was inspired by the Beatles song of the same name. In context, the concept of the glass onion itself is richly symbolic and brilliant, even, when the sequel is peeled back layer by layer. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery's character tropes may hit similar notes as there's an intentional caricature of people of power, influence, wealth, and privilege forced to face their own morality. The film is introspective at points when commenting on the disruption of societal norms by self-proclaimed changemakers. The sharp focus on moral corruption and class status is a narrative tool that makes Johnson's bold dive into the mystery genre even more intriguing. Johnson's tactful skill in transforming timely themes into evergreen media means that his careful approach to using the year 2020 as his timeframe doesn't wear out the exhaustion of pandemic-set films and television, instead, he captures the reality of quarantine. It's an unexpected setpiece used to prop Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery on, yet the choice - much like every move made in Johnson's tiered puzzler - is thoughtfully approached.
The return of elaborate setpieces calls incredible attention to detail on a distracting front. Johnson's artistic maximalism delivered in broad strokes is exactly what the Knives Out sequel calls for. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery chooses to explore a less linear route when mapping out its storytelling, though its unfocused and scattered narration pays off with its boldly unpredictable conclusion. Ornate works of art featured throughout the film seem to judge each character beneath their inanimate gaze, perhaps in the same likes of the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery prides itself on flashy raucousness that adds to the chaos and flatters Johnson's desired angle as he nimbly marries mystery with his own brand of comedy. The balance between humor, a grounded plot, and unpredictable twists keeps Glass Onion: A Knive Out Mystery so fresh and lively. If Knives Out takes time to dive into the decaying values of old money, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery digs into the waning ethics of new money. Each of Johnson's characters bears its own set of strengths and weaknesses, yet Craig's presence is an undeniable highlight of the film. His charming, sympathetic, and wickedly astute private eye never fails to miss a beat, and is a joy to revisit on screen.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery successfully dismantles influencer culture through cautionary satire while keeping its intensely calculated mystery afloat. Johnson is a maestro of mystery who is determined to keep in stride with the reputation he has created for himself. The writer-director's creativity in the genre remains to be wildly impressive. Each piece of the puzzle at play simply outdoes the last. Johnson's second crack at his franchise is a worthy successor to the Knives Out name that dangles suspense overhead - but not without setting the standards for the modern murder-mystery movie. 8/10.