GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY. Onion soufflé [REVIEW]
Soufflé is a light and delicious dessert with a very simple recipe. However, a few wrong moves, wrong proportions and the wrong temperature are enough to get an inedible slack-baked cake instead of an exquisite delicacy. The same applies to entertainment cinema – especially the one whose main goal is to amuse the viewers. If taken on by a skilled craftsman, it can make it light and pleasant, but in the hands of an inept creator, it will simply become indigestible.
Fortunately, Rian Johnson has once again revealed the talent of a great confectioner who measures ingredients perfectly, has great timing and decorates his products beautifully. His work smells like holidays, is visually delicious, has a brisk pace and perfect comedic timing that perfectly harmonizes with the criminal tension and aura of mystery. You can honestly call it an excellent sequel. There is only one catch. Before we finish enjoying this sequel, the director will come out from behind the scenes and with a smile on his face will inform us that what he has just served us is no gourmet delicacy, but … ordinary onions. But does it matter if we want more?
This elaborate culinary metaphor is not out of a desire to be eloquent (as was the case with most reviews of The Menu), but from the fact that leaving the Glass Onion press show I really felt like after a real feast – saturated, amused, and even slightly intoxicated by the atmosphere of the film. And I didn’t mind the fact that the director told me directly that I was wrong to expect miracles from his film.
A recipe for success
The first installment of the Knives Out series (back then presented as an independent film) hit the screens in 2019, reminding us that a crime story does not have to be dirty, dark and Scandinavian to watch it with bated breath and genuine pleasure. Johnson’s work had everything you love about Agatha Christie books – a complicated intrigue, a brilliant detective (who plays a slob), spoiled representatives of high society (all of whom have secrets and each may turn out to be a murderer) and finally – surprising solution. You can say that Glass Onion is made of the same ingredients. But it’s something completely different.
The characters of Johnson’s new film are fabulously rich Americans who one day receive a special invitation from a special man. However, before they set off for a sunny Greek island, the director will introduce them to us in detail. He will not use any verbal declarations. With finesse and panache, he will provide us with all the information during the short, fantastically edited opening sequence of the film. How each character deals with an invitation from a mutual friend; what he does when he receives them; and even the way he wears his anti-covid mask when he embarks on a mysterious journey – all this, without unnecessary talk, will help us identify who we are dealing with. Whenever I see such a well-executed exhibition, my cinephile heart sings.
Of course, the merit is not only the director and screenwriter, but also the costume designers, make-up artists and – of course – the cast itself. Kate Hudson is wonderful as a carefree, self-satisfied, faded star who, basking in luxury, did not notice that the world had changed. Also brilliant are Dave Bautista as the basement bodybuilder, Kathryn Hahn as an aspiring politician, and Edward Norton as a parody of Steve Jobs. Janelle Monáe as the mysterious tour participant deserves a separate ovation, but why is that – you will find out about halfway through the film. And, of course, him – the one and only Daniel Craig in the role of Benoit Blanc, who seems to be enjoying himself, parodying himself.
Craig plays the same role here as in 2019, but exceeds it in every way. Blanc in Knives Out 2 is a fully comic character, strongly exaggerated, and he seems to speak with the voice of the director himself. The self-awareness of Johnson’s new film is indisputable, and it is revealed primarily through the figure of the world’s greatest detective (not to be confused with Batman). And it reveals itself in an absolutely impudent and self-deprecating way.
Movies are like onions
Glass Onion (the title is absolutely not accidental) is not only a satire on the high spheres, perfectly fitting into the very current trend, which includes e.g. The White Lotus, already mentioned The Menu or in a sense also White Noise. It’s not really a detective movie either. In the sequel of Knives Out, the director and screenwriter uses the convention of a detective story, but only to play with the viewer. Although it is still seemingly a game of “who killed?”, more important than answering this question is discovering numerous pop culture references, catching metatextual flavors and discovering subsequent self-referential layers of the viewed work. Inception would not be ashamed when it comes to the levels we have to go through to get to the heart of the matter, and the number of plot twists in Glass Onion can easily wrestle with Prestige. And just like in Nolan’s films, the conclusions we draw from this complex and non-linear narrative will primarily concern cinema.
The sequel of Knives Out is a multi-layered, self-referential joke about the entertainment cinema itself, as well as a joke about us – its audience. However, don’t be afraid of being offended by it. This is a funny joke and very successful. And although you can end the screening with the feeling that someone led you astray and that this someone was not a cunning murderer, but the author of the work himself, who promised a sophisticated dessert and served ordinary onions, I guarantee you that you will end this screening with a wide smile on your face .