Review: ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,’ Delightful Interlocking Puzzles

Daniel Craig stars in a new mystery-thriller from writer/director Rian Johnson, arriving on Netflix December 23.

Around the world, several friends happily work together to solve a mysterious puzzle box that has been delivered to them, eventually revealing an invitation to an exotic location for a luxurious weekend getaway.

That opening sequence sets the tone for Glass Onion: A Knives Out, a sequel to Knives Out (2019) that is the best kind of sequel, in that it follows one key character, famed private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), and places him into an entirely new setting, surrounded by entirely new characters, as he unexpectedly finds himself endeavoring to unravel another complex and deadly crime. 

It’s an entirely pleasant film that builds upon the first film and gives Benoit Blanc an entirely new type of mystery to solve. Therefore, it would be entirely unfair of me to deprive any potential viewers of the opportunity to solve the mystery for themselves, or simply to wallow in the wonderfully complex world that filmmaker Rian Johnson has created for the sequel. 

Instead, let’s talk about Rian Johnson. 

From his first feature film, Brick (2005), Johnson has manifested an abiding interest in mysteries, which form an integral element in each of his narratives, which, in turn, swoop and jump around traditional story arcs, leading to surprising twists and unexpected curves, nonetheless always arriving at satisfying conclusions.  

To cloak his mysterious bent, Johson has further played with stylistic conventions, merging high-school and noir expectations in the aforementioned Brick, playing around with con artists and romance in The Brothers Bloom (2008), as well as action and science-fiction tropes in the delirious Looper (2012) and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017), the latter leaving an impossible puzzle for poor J.J. Abrams to try and solve, and prompting many hardcore fans to complain that Johnson had destroyed the franchise, somehow. 

Meanwhile, Johnson moved on to Knives Out (2019), which only weakened in its third act, as it leaned more heavily on a flurry of scenes that felt rough, unfinished, and obligatory. Whatever the reasons for that, and perhaps it’s only my remembrance of them in that manner, the complexity and pleasures of Glass Onion lies in its ability to maneuver smoothly between genres, paying homage to great mysteries of the past and revealing more about the personality of Benoit Blanc, perhaps the least believable “Southerner,” which may also be his greatest charm; we suspect that much more lies beneath his surface appearances, which feeds into the overriding mystery narrative. 

Glass Onion also features a powerhouse performance by Janelle Monae and entertaining turns by Edward Norton, as the villain of the piece, and juicy contributions by Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista, Kathryn Hahn and Leslie Odom Jr., with very welcome wildcard support by Jessica Henwick and Madelyn Cline, not to forget the dependable Noah Sagan. 

All in all, it’s a complete delight, and one of the year’s best. 

The film debuts worldwide, including Dallas and Fort Worth, on Netflix Friday, December 23, 2022.