Less a sequel to writer/director Rian Johnson's Knives Out and more "Another Benoit Blanc Mystery", Glass Onion brings back the deeply Southern and ambiguously gay detective (charmingly played by Daniel Craig) for a new whodunnit entirely removed from its predecessor.
This time Blanc is summoned to a private Greek island on which a smarmy tech billionaire (Edward Norton, perfectly cast) has gathered a handful of his high-profile friends to "solve his murder". He's a bit unnerved to find the world's greatest detective at his Bond villain-ish lair, as Blanc was the one guest who wasn't invited. Thus unfurls a slew of secrets, surprises, and reversals, which of course I won't dare give away. But I will say this: If you are expecting a wild twist ending that upends the whole plot, be advised that Glass Onion isn't a movie that thinks its cleverer than its audience, but it is one that thinks the good guys should be cleverer than the bad guys. Johnson is at heart a populist.
Whimsically, the drama is set specifically in May 2020: a couple of months into the worldwide Covid shutdown. This backdrop isn't entirely crucial to the proceedings but it does add a lot of funny details. As with Knives Out, the cast is a rich ensemble of hot names (Janelle Monáe, Dave Bautista), solid character actors (Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr.), former A-listers getting a career refresh (Norton, Kate Hudson), and rising stars (Madelyn Cline, Jessica Henwick). Johnson directs his screenplay with boundless energy.
The whole affair is silly and shiny, fine escapist entertainment – it says a lot that in late 2022, Johnson can successfully mine humor and even nostalgia from his "early pandemic" references – but I did miss the nastiness of Knives Out and its unapologetically malicious rogues gallery; most of Glass Onion's suspects are far less mean and thus far less interesting. Moreover, with Johnson getting a significant boost in his budget, his denouement is more blockbuster than whodunnit, an odd sort of letdown for those expecting a good mystery. Nevertheless, it's an irresistible watch.