Three years later A Knives Out, Rian Johnson and his detective Benoit Blanc are back for a new investigation. But this time, exit the cinemas since it is on Netflix that the detective is responsible for investigating. The filmmaker trades the large and mysterious house of his first film for a private island in Greece. And like this change of place, this sequel is a simple expansion of its predecessor, taking up and developing more in depth the same themes and the same narrative structure, even if it means bordering on the superficial.
A more thorough investigation
Its public and critical success had made At Knives Out a real surprise when it came out. It is indeed rare today that an original idea, certainly largely inspired by an already well-established genre, garners more than 300 million dollars at the box office. A sequel to the film was then fairly quickly announced, still with Johnson at the helm. But several months later, we learn that Netflix has signed a record contract with the filmmaker. The platform therefore welcomes this second opus, as well as the future third part already announced.
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, five people receive a mysterious box from the wealthy Miles Bron. The famous entrepreneur, played by Edward Norton, invites these same people every year. Among them are ever more eccentric characters. Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), future senator; Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), famous streamer; Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), a fading model with questionable media outlets; but also Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr), Bron’s right-hand scientist. All find themselves on an island in Greece for an evening of investigation, where the billionaire would be the fictitious victim.
But Benoit Blanc, as well as the mysterious Cassandra Brand are also there. The weekend therefore takes on a whole new dimension. As soon as the main lines of his story are stated, we feel what interests the filmmaker. As in his previous productions, Rian Johnson constantly has fun defying expectations and breaking the rules. As in the first opus, he has fun again with the whodunit, a genre with well-built codes. The character of Benoît Blanc can be perceived as an update of Hercule Poirot, a melancholic detective who does not like investigations that are too simple.
Unlike the first installment, Glass Onion genuinely cares about his detective. We briefly discover him in his daily life, and he seems much more present within the enigma of the film. Despite everything, we still feel a certain lack of interest from the filmmaker for him, always preferring these suspects. On the side of the suspects, Johnson again manages to create a microcosm, in which each of the characters is unique in their characterization. Dave Bautista plays his role as a completely brainless masculinist influencer perfectly.
And as in the first opus, the writing continues to rely on metatextuality. Benoit Blanc previously investigated the murder of a whodunit writer. In this case, he is tasked with solving a case disguised as a fictional case. This double level of reading is always satisfactory, especially since the mystery itself is much more accomplished. If we could stay on our hunger in the first opus on this aspect, the investigation of Glass Onion is much denser, in particular thanks to the incessant game of clues played by Rian Johnson.
burn the rich
Unfortunately, the filmmaker drags with him the same approximations that he lacks. As in his opus of Star Wars or in At Knives Out, the film suffers from real problems of rhythm. The exposition of the film and the stakes, although necessary, is far too long. And the investigation itself not being what interests him, Johnson takes too long to develop the story of his characters, even if it means becoming redundant. Indeed, towards the middle of the film, the story shifts into a new dimension, which leaves aside the whodunit. The element of surprise was there for At Knives Outbut by strictly using the same structure, and the same effect, the surprise is no longer there.
On the other hand, the satirical dimension of the film, certainly already present before too, is much more accomplished. The film is a real rant against the upper classes. Johnson takes pleasure in ridiculing all of his characters. Each of their words or actions is underlined in such a way as to show the emptiness that inhabits them. Miles Bron is a parody (albeit) of the most famous entrepreneurs. We inevitably think of Elon Musk in the face of current events, but the examples are countless. And the friends of the billionaire perfectly represent this social class, which clings to this superficial guru to preserve its comfort of life.
This form of caricature still has its limits. As said before, it too often takes precedence over the investigation of the film. The rhythm is directly impacted by this decision. Moreover, as was the case this year with The menu, social satire is sometimes not very subtle. Satire is a perilous exercise, and twice Rian Johnson gets bogged down in it. Some comedic tricks, like this guest not actually present, don’t work. And the actors, although they all seem to be having fun, are constantly overplayed, Daniel Craig the first.
More endearing than his first opus, Rian Johnson’s franchise is nonetheless plagued by its flaws. Wanting too much to reclaim pre-established codes, he somewhat loses what makes the substance of the genre. Despite everything, we take a certain pleasure in seeing this modern version of the detective. As usual, the filmmaker was very careful in his staging. The cinematography of the film and his sense of framing confirm his talents and his ability to stimulate the viewer. It is then hoped that the next survey will once again surpass the previous one.
Glass Onion : trailer
Glass Onion: technical sheet
Original title : Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Director and screenplay: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daniel Craig (Benoit Blanc), Edward Norton (Miles Bron), Janelle Monae (Cassandra Brand), Dave Bautista (Duke Cody), Kathryn Hahn (Claire Debella)
Photography: Steve Yedlin
Music: Nathan Johnson
Editing: Bob Ducsay
Genre: thriller, whodunit
Production company: T-Street productions
Distribution company: Netflix
Release date: December 23, 2022 (Netflix)
Country: United States
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