Rian Johnson knows how to thread together a who-dunnit with a stack of A-Listers at his disposal, as proven by 2019’s Knives Out. But does the Daniel Craig-led murder-mystery premise have the legs for a follow-up?
The opening sequence is arguably the highlight of the film. Kathryn Hahn’s Claire, Leslie Odom Jr. ‘s Lionel, Kate Hudson’s Birdy and Dave Baustista’s Duke all receive a mysterious box accompanied by a note – ‘Love Miles’. What ensues will make anyone with a penchant for puzzles green with envy and with such a slick application of split-screen editing, Johnson’s tricky-second-album is off to a flying start.
The next hour ebbs and flows with its hit-rate. Some ill-advised choices regarding the pandemic feel awkward and forced but admittedly provide a good platform for colouring Hudson’s character, with a couple of good jokes to boot. The performances across the board are inarguably great although some names feel a little under-utilised. A triumphant comedic turn from Jessica Henwick is a well measured injection of levity and there’s no doubt the cast had a hell of a time playing such deliciously despicable people. The archetypal characters err on the side of over-cooked yet feel perfect for the who-dunnit arena. However, it’s sometimes difficult to reconcile that dichotomy, especially when the characters are populating the less familiar location of billionaire-owned private island, far removed from the cosy colour pallette of the Knives Out mansion. Beaches, pools and a genius bathing suit replace the designer knitwear and warm hearths of its Cluedo-esque predecessor providing a new skin to a familiar set-up but the familiarity ends there. Structurally, Johnson changes things up, just as he did before. This time, a significant shift at the mid-point provides a boost of momentum at the perfect moment to recapture your potentially wavering attention. To say anymore would be to divulge a little too much so we’ll stop there.
Ruling – A solid entry into the pantheon of great who-dunnits. Johnson overcomes the tricky-second-album problem with ease and, though it hasn’t been as universally loved as Knives Out, I suspect Glass Onion will be one worth revisiting often.