“I play dead. It stops the sting. I play dead. And the hurt stops. It’s sometime’s just like sleeping, curling up inside my private tortures…” – Björk
“If you think you are losing, you’re already halfway to victory.” – Moi
A good screenwriter takes adulation in stride. A great screenwriter takes notes and does better. Notes. Keep that in mind.
A year before the pandemic, Knives Out, the sharpness of Writer-Director Rian Johnson took shape. He set the stage for a good old-fashioned, highly intoxicating whodunnit.
Three years later, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Netflix) extracts the knife out of that famous throne, and whittles out the garden path of twists and turns that play out like Christie in a candy store. From his Neo-noir debut of Brick to the Neo-period puzzle of Brothers Bloom to the time loopiness of, well, Looper, the dude’s lain a trajectory of his oeuvre- to expect that which is not.
Have you ever seen when a bowling ball crashes into another lane and accidentally gets a strike? It’s happened, but with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, such wasn’t the case. The filmmaker is an auteur and no, not a double negative. Love or hate the nomenclature, he possesses a panache that those who haven’t should stand up and take notice of.
I believe he happened to take the vitriol with Star Wars and upend it on something more indie, something within his home base, if you will, with Knives Out. He’d be in his comfort zone, whilst getting back to what made him a name on posters (that darts wouldn’t be thrown upon).
In this, he’s come with a vengeance. Stronger. Better. Slower (yet harder). I know how that read.
Without spoiling anything, because one week in theaters isn’t nearly enough for this uncut cinematic masterpiece, I’ll give you a prelude to the majesty that is Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
Firstly, the cast is stacked to the heavens that will soon raise hell, only constructing a staircase back to Heaven. You have socialite Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), influencer Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), Peg (Jessica Henwick), Whiskey (Madelyn Cline) and Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe).
All parties present will be a prospect in the game of the Elon Musk-ish Miles Bron (Edward Norton). He’s brought the band together from their Pandemic-shuttered watering hole, the Glass Onion, post-Covid to enjoy a murder mystery on his dime. It’s a weekend of excess, de-stress, and hopefully, success in solving the billionaire’s faux-murder.
Even our ever illustrious, debonair detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) shows up to the remote Grecian Isle, where the players are gorgeous and the game is just a privileged playdate of friends at best and a perverted display of hubris at worst. Why would you invite Benoit to come if you didn’t think he’d solve it once he touched toe on Miles’ compound, where the connective tissue is the one to be dissolved by the invitees?
That’s not brass balls. That’s swingin’ past your knees dick energy. Hey, all things are fun in the sun. Until they’re not.
As I said, I give nothing away, outside of that I actually loved this better than Knives Out proper. What to do with an old Clue board but dust it off and maybe in the process give the rules a bit of an “unofficial” update?
Unauthorized remixes are still a badass middle finger to convention. Why not give the classic genre a bit of a pep in its step? Remind it what made it beautiful and spry in the first place. Shit, I’m sure Charleston was considered the twerking of the 1920s. The only thing is this movie was not simply to add a booty roll or two to the routine.
This was more like a fireball shot down the gullet and adrenaline shot to the thigh meat of a woefully underused genre. In these days of Marvel bukkake (don’t search that up) and a less-than-stellar box office audience show-up-rate to indie movies, it was in Lizzo’s words, “…about damn time.”
The Mediterranean environs keep the scenes moving with shiny people harboring sordid backstories. Giving a group motive to kill their only nexus is a genius idea when it comes down to the layers’ shred. That’s all you really need. You don’t need any bombastic CGI or high-leveled marketing to know what really gets the posterior in seats for what we truly go to the theatre for. Sadly, it takes the threat of a limited engagement to get those not hip to what was already amazing in the first place.
This (interstitial) has more levity, and I will give a solid piece of praise to how Rian orchestrates the blooming of this story. He certainly has the cogs spinning of what he could do with music and wrapping it around like a beautifully spun web. These are not randomly generated songs for the cachet of it all. Everything is in its own place. He named the first movie from a Radiohead song, and now he’s going on it with a song from one of their most widely debated albums.
You don’t have to be eagle-eyed to tell Danial Craig is truly having a ball with this, and that’s a true takeaway. In his newest Taika Waititi-helmed ad for Belvedere, we see him peeling away from Bond, as if in an Aston Martin on the last day of filming. He’s as smooth as his wardrobe changes, as they all are. It’s the cunning sleight of Johnson’s hand at play.
The film keeps you guessing. Motives aren’t truly known until the shocking and very rewarding finale. The cast itself was something Thanksgiving week I had to be grateful for. Everybody plays their part with deft aplomb and goes above and beyond with Jackie Hoffman being a very pleasant surprise as were a few other surprise cameos that had me squealing inside.
If the Met Gala staged this with half as much brio, I’d honestly be more impressed with Rian’s vision. It had that much more spark and history since the first flick, only arriving in its finery to let you know it. It’s like Katniss arriving in a flaming gown. Rian solidified his presence in a time-sensitive market among giants, like it or not. It’s an experience that deserves dinner parties around, fully staged midnight showings, and quite possibly a few cocktails based on.
Taking your first mystery and titling it after a Radiohead song is one thing but doing a follow-up and titling it after a Beatles tune is ballsy. He’s an agent of chaos in this world we’re all entrenched in and, though we think we can easily see through it at first, he’ll easily shatter those illusions.
With misdirection and overall tension, all I have to say to Rian is in both creativity and praise, “Baby, you’re a rich man.”