A lot of things worked together to make Rian Johnson’s 2019 whodunit Knives out This is a big hit. Like Johnson’s loving magpie’s eye for a discarded genre, ripe for picking. You can also see Daniel Craig as Benoit blanc, the camp detective. He cheekily jumps the gun after his stint as James Bond. And then there’s the top-to-bottom immaculate casting: Don Johnson is a sleazy, useless, gold-digging husband, because of course he is!
But perhaps the most significant boost to the film’s success is the perfection of its Pinterest-ready mood board, expressed in its brilliant production design, costuming, and cinematography. Chunky fall knits and sharp tweed overcoats; Jamie Lee Curtis resplendent in fuchsia, topped with a shock of white hair; Chris Evans’ growling 1970s BMW and beloved cabled sweater; overcast skies and low, cool November light; a halo of knives as decor; a universe of creepy knickknacks, all stuffed into a creaking New England mansion, somberly redolent of the Old World. (But as Rian Johnson’s script wickedly notes, purchased from a Pakistani real-estate mogul in the 1980s.) It’s a clever, funny movie that holds its self-consciousness at just the right distance, and its style is on point.
Take a look at the moodboard for the Netflix-funded sequel. The Glass Onion Mystery: Knives OutThis time, it explores murder and mind games among the most wealthy. This time around, it’s a Porsche hypercar rotating on a roof-mounted turntable; azure seas and skies under a blazing Greek sun; personalized cocktail glasses and chiming smartphones; glass sculptures and gizmos adorning a fantasy tech palace with a huge, onion-shaped cupola; loud prints, loose linens, neckerchiefs, sun hats, and a codpiece-mounted handgun.
All this is to say, Glas Onion The second movie has a more bright, louder, and more extroverting tone than the previous. Knives out. With a brazen and cartoony humor, the movie’s themes and fashion are playful. This time around, Johnson aims for big ideas and big laughs — this is a funnier movie, almost an outright comedy at times, and a broad one at that. What? Knives outThe defensive pretensions of inherited wealth are targeted Glas OnionIn a world full of flash-in the-pan politicians, tech billionaires and influencers, this mocks their desperate pursuit of money. As before, though, the gentlemanly Benoit Blanc is here to strip these people’s illusions away with comic courtesy.
The same as always Glas OnionIt begins as a mystery about a murder, but it seems that there might not have been one. Harlan Thrombey, a crime writer (Christopher Plummer), is killed. Knives outJohnson enjoyed preserving the details of the crime as well as the identity of both the victim and criminal throughout the investigation.
This time, there’s only play-acting. Miles Bron, an Edward Norton-like tech platform founder who made an incredible fortune through Alpha, invited friends and family to his Greek island private reunion. He calls them his “disruptors”: a stressed liberal politician (Kathryn Hahn), a scientific genius who works for Bron (Leslie Odom Jr.), a crass meninist Twitch streamer (Dave Bautista), and an air-headed former model (Kate Hudson) with a line in fancy sweatpants, which is booming because it’s 2020, and the COVID-19 pandemic has everyone working from home.
Everyone is surprised at the arrival of Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe), who built Alpha with Miles, but whom he ruthlessly cut out of the company. Blanc and everyone else are equally stunned when Benoit Blanc arrives. But Bron has planned a murder mystery party where he will be the “victim,” so at least the world’s greatest detective fits the theme. Revealing any more would interfere with the intricate clockwork of Johnson’s scheme — but of course someone ends up dead for real, and someone has an interest in making sure there’s a celebrity sleuth on the scene.
While Johnson is a deep admirer of Agatha Christie’s classic mysteries, the gamesmanship of their construction isn’t enough for him. Johnson feels the need for games, even with whodunit. What if the murderer didn’t commit the murder? What if the victim isn’t the target? As he did with the previous case, he didn’t lift the curtain at the end on his artifice. Knives outIn Glas OnionHe makes a large gamble and wins the game halfway through. He flips the script, and then rewinds it to start over with all the events and characters in new ways.
Structurally, it’s quite a magic trick. Although some of his tricks are surprisingly shrewish, the choice is suitable for such an entertaining, winking theatrical endeavor. All pieces work together. But the gamble comes with other consequences. While some characters find their perspectives shifting more deeply and enrich them, others feel flattened. Crucially, genre conventions require Johnson to pull off a reveal at the conclusion to match the surprise of the twist he engineered halfway through, but when he gets there, it turns out he’s run himself out of options, and the payoff doesn’t land as it should.
By then, though, Johnson is less interested in fingering the murderer than in taking down the characters’ whole world in a blaze of glory. In Knives outThis was taken during the Trump-obsessed immigration era. He asked who America was and chose a side in his closing shot. You can read the rest of his story here. Glas OnionHere is his rant, which he made in the dissociation caused by COVID. It’s muddled stuff, embodied in a gaggle of callow caricatures that he struggles to establish a natural kinship between.
They still pop off the screen, though, assisted by Jenny Eagan’s extravagant costumes. Bautista is both a boorish and puppyish character as Duke, an insecure child trapped on a rock outcrop. Hudson is hilarious as Birdie, a queen of glamorous idiocy who’s been canceled for her tweets so many times that her assistant won’t let her touch her phone. Norton, as the absurd Elon Musk-alike, mines a deep seam of douchiness without dimming his immense charisma — it’s a joy to see him back at the center of a big, flashy Hollywood production, and to be reminded of what a star he is. Monáe, in the most sophisticated and multifaceted role, shines with a sincerity, a simmering anger, and a realness that the others cannot touch.
Also, we have the opportunity to watch Daniel Craig perform in this film There are many of us In the bathtub with Angela Lansbury, Stephen Sondheim and Zoom. The film riffs on Craig’s macho Bond image in some delightful, surprising ways, but Craig and Johnson both push the dapper detective, with his pronounced Southern drawl, in a more cartoonish direction — away from Agatha Christie’s famed detective Hercule Poirot, and toward his parody descendant, The Pink Panther’s Inspector Clouseau. Unlike Peter Sellers’ idiot investigator, Benoit Blanc is no fool, but as he descends into a swimming pool dressed in a striped two-piece bathing suit and a cravat, he does look a bit like a figure of fun.
It matters? It doesn’t matter. A great sleuth, like Peter Falk’s Columbo — to whom Rian Johnson and Natasha Lyonne will soon pay tribute in their detective series Poker Face — does not need to have hidden depths. They turn the key, unlock the door, and reveal our failures. We don’t need to know why they do it, but we do ask they do it with style. It’s flashy and fun entertainment that stars the biggest names. Glas Onion Certainly.
The Glass Onion Mystery: Knives OutIt will be available in limited edition on November 23 and on Netflix on December 23.
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