Peeling Back the Layers of Glass Onion

Design by Etai Smotrich-Barr

Rian Johnson’s genre-breaking movie Knives Out was a massive success in 2019. It successfully subverted conventional mystery tropes, perfectly rendered the New England aesthetic, and featured compelling characters and actors alike. Three years later, in Glass Onion, the eccentric detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) has finally made his long-anticipated return. 

This time, Blanc trades in his East Coast brown sweaters and wool overcoats for pastel capris and stylish fedoras fit for the Greek islands. Despite a dramatically different setting than Knives Out, Glass Onion follows the successful footsteps of its predecessor; it’s an extremely fun movie that entertains viewers while commenting on the lack of creativity in modern cinematic storytelling. 

Much like Knives Out, Glass Onion relies on an ensemble of talented A-listers to play complex characters, each of whom remind us of a well-known modern day persona. Norton’s stumbling and slimy entrepreneur Miles mirrors the likes of Sam Bankman-Fried or Elon Musk, while Kate Hudson’s Birdie captures the all too familiar out-of-date celebrity with controversial views and insensitive tweets. These familiar but unique characters make Glass Onion shine, polished by the amazing performances and perfect costume design behind each of them. 

Glass Onion’s similarities to its predecessor don’t stop there, as once again, Rian Johnson’s obsession with disrupting storytelling tropes dominates the story. In presenting yet another subversive take on the classic mystery story where there’s actually no elaborate plan behind the scenes, Glass Onion’s “aha” ending moment near the film’s finale takes viewers completely by surprise, despite feeling painfully obvious after the reveal. 
In suspending belief to watch a mystery film, viewers ignore the most obvious aspects of it and in Johnson’s surprise ending twist we are forced to reconcile with how exactly we expect mystery movies to shock us when we haven’t been paying attention. Miles’ character shows to an exhausting extreme what unoriginality looks like, serving as an example of why Johnson’s obsession to do something original with his finale and choice of murderer in Glass Onion makes the film not only fun but genuinely engaging.

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