Director: Rian Johnson
Writers: Rian Johnson
Stars: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson
Whereas Knives Out seemed to be a teaser for the cultural satire at the forefront of Rian Johnson’s mind, Glass Onion is the full meal. With each line of dialogue, Johnson crafts an acute understanding of characterization all while seeding the fruits of a mystery on par with Agatha Christie’s finest work.
The scripting of these stories is extraordinary, not just because they craft surprising intrigue, but also because they create a structure in which every line, scene, and the narrative beat is deliberate and intentional to create entertaining characters that either have something to say for the plot or have something to say for the allegorical context that lays behind it.
In both of these stories, the audience is richly rewarded for noticing detail. It encourages participation by always framing exactly what is necessary for the given moment and disguising what is not with just enough calculation to ensure that attention is paid.
Consider for a moment the frame of Kate Hudson’s hat as she leans back to reveal another character sitting just out of view. The frame is deliberate to ensure that the audience catches the moment and catalogs it so that when the story deepens to reveal a broadening of this picture, we remember it.
This type of genius is essential to the mastery of Glass Onion. Like Knives Out, the traditional structure of this whodunit is discarded in favor of a deepening lore that constantly introduces new questions and compounds those questions with shifting answers that reel the audience in deeper and demand that they work to uncover the mysteries at the center of the story.
Each of these mysteries is given new information and context to broaden the scope of our understanding. It is because of this that the script is able to carefully craft and calculate the rollercoaster of audience understanding (even if you know where it ends up, you are guaranteed to be surprised by the path to get there).
The performances here are uniformly excellent, with Daniel Craig appearing as the true standout with his Foghorn Leghorn adjacent cadence of speech that makes him somehow bridge the perfect gap in the film’s delicate tone.
While I am critical of Glass Onion for its disappointing comeuppance (coming on the back of a satisfying reveal to then suddenly breach the confines of the film’s perceived reality with a swelling conclusion that feels unrealistic and unfortunately alleviates vital guilt from characters who are still culpable), it becomes impossible to diminish the emotional satisfaction at watching this satire acknowledge the pending rage and frustration that the audience has for a large margin of the characters at its center.
Perhaps the system simply needs to be broken to work towards any genuine progress, and Glass Onion seems to understand that pent-up rage beautifully. 9/10