Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, by Albert W. Vogt III

Perhaps I should be a more attentive film reviewer?  Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (henceforth just Glass Onion because I do not feel like writing all of that out every time) had been suggested to me on social media to watch and critique.  This was not too onerous of a task as I intended to see it anyway.  Herein comes my lack of attention.  I thought it would have come to theaters, but then I noticed at some point that it was going to be a Netflix movie. Thus, I waited.  In the intervening time between then and last weekend, somebody told me that it did receive a theatrical release.  Heck if I noticed it.  Considering how often I go to the cinema, I would think that I would not have missed it.  Then again, it could have come out the same weekend as some other seemingly more pressing title.  Anyway, I am glad to have finally seen it this weekend.

Like its predecessor, Knives Out (2019), Glass Onion introduces the people that will be a part of the title mystery that the world-famous private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) will solve.  These include Connecticut governor Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn); ditzy fashion mogul Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson); Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), a video game streamer and self-proclaimed men’s rights activitist; and Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom, Jr.), a scientist working on a new energy source.  The person tying them all together is not Benoit, but rather a mutual friend among them named Miles Bron (Edward Norton).  He is an eccentric billionaire who has supported all their endeavors in some way, calling their groups the “Disruptors.”  Each year he gathers them together for a party, this time sending them a puzzle in a box that they must solve in order to receive their invitation.  They all collaborate on doing so, except for Cassandra “Andi” Brand (Janelle Monáe).  When she gets her box, she uses a hammer to get to the innards.  The long and short of all this is that they are to attend a fancy murder mystery set up by Miles on his private island in Greece.  This is where Benoit comes in, having received an invitation to attend.  When all the guests get to their destination, Miles is surprised by two attendees.  The first is Benoit, who supposedly was not meant to be there, and the other is Andi.  She and Miles had been romantically involved, but had a falling out over disagreements as to the direction of the company they had co-founded.  Since Benoit is the stranger here, we see him observing the interactions between everyone.  What is clear is that each one, except for Andi, are tied to the fortune Miles uses for their purposes.  While they increasingly have differences with Miles and his eccentricities, they are unwilling to openly confront him lest they lose favor.  Everyone, again, except for Andi.  Nonetheless, everything seems to be progressing as normal until dinner time.  This is when the murder mystery is set to commence, but Benoit figures it out in two seconds, to Miles’ embarrassment.  They try to carry on as normal until Cody suddenly keels over and dies.  As Benoit is wont to do, he immediately suspects foul play.  Unfortunately, before the investigation can begin in earnest, the lights go out.  This had been a part of the plan for the evening’s festivities, but since there is a corpse in the living room, everyone begins scattering in panic.  In the commotion, Benoit and Andi meet, and she is about to give Benoit a key piece of information before she is shot by an unknown assailant.  Here is where the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together.  Andi, by the way, is not who she says she is.  Rather, she is Andi’s twin sister Helen.  When she received the box, she went to Benoit to get him to look into the man she blames for her sibling’s death: Miles.  It was his plan that she impersonate her sister and fabricate an invitation for him to come along.  The real issue is a napkin on which the late Andi had drawn years ago that became the inspiration for the company she and Miles started, which led to his success.  When he and Andi began to quarrel, he found a way of copying the napkin and having the courts rule that it was his intellectual property.  This effectively cut Andi out of her own company.  However, she was able to find the original.  She then let Miles know that she had it, which would ruin him.  He then came to her house and murdered her.  This is why Andi appearing at the party is such a shock, though he does not know it is Helen.  None of them do, except Benoit.  While everyone else is mingling and talking about how they plan to keep working with Miles, she is ransacking the house looking for the original napkin that Miles stole when he killed Andi.  Cody’s death had been the result of him finding out about Andi’s death before everyone else and showing Miles the news.  Miles then purposely gives Cody an alcoholic beverage with pineapple in it, which is what kills the men’s rights activist since he is deadly allergic to the fruit.  Finally, that shot that had struck Helen hit a journal she kept in her coat pocket, which saved her life.  As all this is unraveled by Benoit before the stunned guests, Miles continues to behave unconcerned.  He knows that the others will remain devoted to him because they depend on him.  They do so even when they witness Miles burn the original napkin found by Helen.  What eventually turns them against him is “Klear,” a supposedly revolutionary, but incredibly dangerous fuel source that Miles has been demanding that Lionel test over scientist’s protests.  Helen proceeds to destroy Miles’ living room before tossing in a bit of the substance into a fire and burning down not only Miles’ estat, but all his dreams.  His friends turn on him at this point, too, particularly when they see everything collapsing.  We end with Benoit and Helen sitting on the steps waiting for the Greek police to arrive.

When you are dealing with a film like Glass Onion, one’s thoughts tend to go along with the flow of the plot.  It is natural that this flow moves towards the identity of the murderer.  Accordingly, one wants to solve the case before the main characters do.  It is fun, which is what keeps a genre like this going.  What takes away from the experience are plot holes.  There are not many here, but sometimes picking on one thread can lead the entire story unraveling.  For example, would not Cody be able to taste the pineapple immediately in the drink that killed him, or smell it, and therefore avoid death.  This is a relatively small point.  A bigger one deals with Miles and Andi.  I would find it hard to believe that he would not know about Helen, and therefore immediately understand that it could not have been Andi when Helen comes in her sister’s stead.  There are a few others.  Still, they do not overwhelm the film, and it is mostly an enjoyable experience.

What worried this Catholic reviewer while watching Glass Onion is that I would not have any characters about which I cared.  Benoit is a good guy, but the rest, including Helen, are monsters in some way.  I include Helen in this list because her desire for revenge is overpowering at times.  What encapsulates the attitude of all those involved is when one of them admits (I cannot remember who at this point) that they would do anything to save themselves.  Talk about a blatantly un-Christian attitude to have, particularly towards our fellow man.  There is another line in the film, this one said by Benoit, that is not immediately related to this subject, but fits nicely to the point I am trying to make.  Birdie is in the habit of reminding people that she has no filter, and that she speaks her mind at all times.  She calls it the truth, which she claims is difficult for people to accept.  Benoit reminds her that confusing speaking without thought and saying the actual truth is dangerous.  In other words, the latter is what actually goes to people’s hearts, not the bluster of the former.  God’s words are like the latter.  Since God resides in the heart, that is where truth can be found.  My only wish here is that the others in the movie saw it in this manner.

Glass Onion is a worthy follow-up to its predecessor.  There are a few objectionable scenes in it, but nothing outrageous.  Also, it is fun to see Craig developing a new role post-James Bond.  At any rate, if you have Netflix, give it a look after the kids are in bed.

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