In 2017 director Rian Johnson subverted our expectations by making a terrible Star Wars movie (The Last Jedi). Then in 2019 he subverted them again by making the superb whodunnit Knives Out. Now he subverts our expectations several more times over the course of this follow-up mystery, Glass Onion on Netflix. It has a terrible beginning, an excellent middle which seemingly saves the movie, and then a terrible ending that derails everything and snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.
The story starts by introducing most of the main characters all at once in a farcical collage of scenes. Nearly every character is frenetic and zany, including Daniel Craig's Benoit Blanc, who it turns out spends most of his time between cases taking baths and playing multiplayer video games such as Among Us with his middle-aged buddies. Far from fleshing out his personal details, these revelations are completely at odds with the Blanc we know and love from Knives Out, and so Blanc's integrity as a character is quickly blown out of the water for some cheap laughs. Expectations: subverted.
My next big gripe: for no good reason the story is set at the beginning of the Plandemic and so there's a long dose of COVID mask theater. But on their way to the billionaire inventor's private island where the story takes place, the billionaire's henchmen spray an unknown substance into their mouths and no one has to wear a mask for the rest of the film, yay. This mystery inoculation is never followed up or explained. The story could have easily left out the exact year or said it was 2019 or 2022, so all the COVID theater was just a waste of time about a topic that really grinds my gears.
At this point, 15 or 20 minutes into the movie, I would have already given up on it if it hadn't been for the high quality of the first film. I persevered and was pleasantly surprised to find things actually getting interesting, and they stayed interesting almost all the way to the end.
There were two big problems with the ending:
- When the identity of the killer is disclosed, an earlier integral plot point stops making sense. I can't say much more without spoilers so I'll just say that given the killer knew what they knew... argh that's all I can say.
- Just as the movie was wrapping up with an otherwise satisfying ending, our expectations were subverted once again. The script was flipped, everything we'd been building up to went out the window, and then the lengths to which the "good guys" went to see "justice done" was highly unethical and disturbing.
Ultimately I quite enjoyed most of the film but it left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Can't recommend.
PS - Nice to see Jessica Henwick again, although she was sadly underutilized.