Naughty Rian Johnson – the man who devotes inordinate amounts of time formulating strategies to pull the rug from what used to be cinema audiences (now sofa sinkers), is having a second stab with Glass Onion – the follow-up to the curiously successful Knives Out. Who knew we all missed the all-star whodunnit so much? Perhaps Johnson reasoned we were running out of movies for inclement bank holidays – that there were only so many times you could watch Evil Under the Sun as the rain lashed the caboose, so generational updates were required.
Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc, grown in a lab from scrapings of Poirot’s moustache, is the right kind of detective for this Christie-inspired celebrity puzzle box. He’s haughty, one dimensional and lateral minded. Not that the flicks are about him, of course. These movies are about plot design; they’re clockwork movies, and consequently, though some will say Johnson is subverting or reinventing the genre, because they associate these kind of stories with more linear plots that surprise upon the reveal of withheld information – the director has in fact made two mysteries that fit comfortably within the tradition that inspired them.
Glass Onion ostensibly finds Blanc invited to a murder mystery weekend run by Ed Norton’s not-Elon Musk inspired tech billionaire. Norton will be the victim and his retinue of hangers-on – pals that got rich on his patronage (and Blanc, naturally), are invited to solve the mystery. Except, notes Blanc, all the dependent suspects have legitimate reasons to want Norton dead and the detective learns he wasn’t invited by the host at all, but a mystery third party.
And so, in the best Agatha tradition, begins a series of mysteries within mysteries, non-linear rug pulls, and in-movie clues that pay off in the film’s overlaid second act – one that, as signalled in dialogue, acts in tandem with the first to remake the entire enterprise. It is, in Johnson’s own pretentious parlance, a fugue, but one that will be music to the ears of anyone who enjoys flicks that reward close attention.
As with Knives Out, whodunnit is less important than the why and how the murder fits into the film’s intricate design. It’s a high-end game – a marble chess set, which will amuse and entertain those who’ve missed this form of narrative Cluedo (Clue, incidentally, remains better than all these movies combined).
A third film is on the way. If we dare hope Johnson will soon abandon the genre for something more weighty, befitting his auteur leanings, then we’re bound to be disappointed as anticipating our wants and giving us what he thinks we need instead, is this director’s schtick. It’s fun but let’s not encourage him.