Glass Onion Is A Pointed Sign of the Times

Glass Onion Is A Pointed Sign of the Times

I’ll repeat what I said almost three years ago about the original Knives Out: “The movie is fantastic. Go watch it now.”

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, billionaire Miles Bron — the supposed mastermind behind the tech giant Alpha — invites his friends for a getaway to his private Greek island and the titular Glass Onion. As a murder mystery game takes on a real twist, Detective Benoit Blanc takes the case.

The acting is once again excellent. Daniel Craig as the eccentric Southern detective Benoit Blanc remains outstanding, and you can tell he had fun playing the character with how much spirit and passion he exudes in every syllable of his addicting Southern drawl. However, every member of the ensemble cast shines in their own ways. Of note are Edward Norton — who excellently plays the part of an obnoxious, valor-stealing billionaire who maintains a facade of genius while actually being remarkably stupid — and Janelle Monáe, who expertly serves as the focal point of a deftly-executed “identical twin” twist between Andi and Helen Brand.

The plot is less revolutionary than the first Knives Out, though still excellent. The first half of the film made me wary — it often felt slow or meandering, and I was starting to wonder if Benoit had lost a bit of charm as he took a more prominent role. Once the second half hit, those worries were assuaged, as director Rian Johnson once again sweeps away the audience with a series of massive, context-shifting twists. Still, I found myself thinking back to Knives Out and how the film remained equally fun before these bends in the story.

There are fewer mind-boggling “gotchas,” but the movie compensates by leaning into the central metaphor of the Glass Onion: seemingly complex yet fully transparent, the solution always visible in the center. You can see what truly happens right in front of your eyes, yet the movie leaves you doubting yourself until it finally drops the pin, and Benoit begins unpeeling the onion to reveal its painfully obvious, “just dumb” center.

While the first Knives Out feels like a neat twist on the whodunnit genre, but still has that comfortable, familiar feeling. Glass Onion is not only different in its location, feeling purposefully “current” compared to the temporally vague story of an eccentric, wealthy man’s death in a timeless manor, but its tone is much more pointed, much angrier. Unlike the first movie, Glass Onion is a film that can only release now. 

There are novelties, of course, like the opening where we meet Bron’s “friends,” the Disruptors, as they go about their lives in quarantine—Alpha head scientist Lionel Touissant taking a Zoom call with board members, Connecticut governor Claire Debella holding a televised address from her home, controversial fashion designer Birdie Jay holding a pandemic party, and men’s rights streamer Duke Cody livestreaming a semi-apology. It’s a neat setup to the movie that involves the pandemic in a way that feels natural yet novel and serves as great characterization for the characters in question—Lionel, the scientist wearing a multi-layered mask, Claire the politician putting one on hastily, Birdie the once-canceled influencer for “speaking the truth” using a mesh mask, and Duke the hyper-masculine misogynist forgoing a mask entirely. 

Johnson presents Bron as your typical tech billionaire: a man desperate to appear cool, mysterious, and intelligent, yet is undeniably, headachingly stupid.

We also get Daniel Craig playing Among Us with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Natasha Lyonne, Stephen Sondheim, and Angela Lansbury.

But the compelling, current factor about Glass Onion is not the pandemic but its villain, Miles Bron. It’s revealed that he stole ownership of Alpha from his partner Andi, fabricating evidence to do so, and it’s finally revealed in the conclusion that — as expected — he was the one to kill Andi to prevent her going public with evidence against him, murder his “friend” Duke at the party to cover his trail, and shoot Helen in an attempt to silence her.

Johnson presents Bron as your typical tech billionaire: a man desperate to appear cool, mysterious, and intelligent, yet is undeniably, headachingly stupid. A man whose best ideas, from his billion-dollar company to the murder of one of his “friends” to the destruction of evidence against him, are all stolen one way or another from the people around him. And in the end, his insistence upon inscribing himself into the annals of history — even if it could cost people their lives — destroys his reputation forever.

Johnson has gone on record saying that Miles Bron was not entirely based on Elon Musk, mixing in the likes of Steve Jobs and your Silicon Valley regulars. Glass Onion’s release contemporaneous with Musk’s Twitter meltdown was indeed a coincidence. But in an age of personality cults, populism, and a world seemingly run by rich buffoons with the temperaments of teenagers, it is so incredibly cathartic to get a movie that reveals people like Musk for who they are: childish idiots playing as charismatic geniuses, whose billions are stolen from the work of others.