Movie Review: Peeling the Glass Onion

Michael Shtrom, Arts & Culture Writer

I never thought I’d relive the year 2020, but as soon as I started watching “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” I immediately felt transported back. From lead detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) playing the popular video game “Among Us” to characters working on Zoom, the film begins in a grounded, realistic depiction of 2020. Residing in this world are a cast of colorful, dramatized characters, featuring Claire (Kathryn Hahn), Duke (Dave Bautista), and Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.), among others. Each of them receive an ornate box of puzzles from billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), who invites them to his private island in Greece for a murder mystery-themed party. When one of the players is actually murdered and all of the other players become suspects, a real murder mystery begins.

There are quite a few enjoyable parts of “Glass Onion.” The film is set in Greece, so it is visually stunning. Every scene is shot against a beautiful backdrop of gorgeous mountains and clear skies, along with a beautiful, intricately-designed mansion that ends up playing an incredibly satisfying part in the climax. The cinematography  enhances these visuals, with creative and unique shots that keep the film visually interesting as a whole.

Along with great visuals, the film is supported by solid writing. The story unfolds in an engaging and satisfying way, and most of the plot elements established early in the film are tied up by the end in interesting and unexpected ways. I particularly enjoyed how some of the metaphors and puzzles discussed early in the film, such as the Glass Onion itself and the fugue in the puzzle boxes, become a representation for the film and story itself. 

However, these metaphors also exemplify one of the problems with the film: the reveal of the murderer. From the beginning, the film works tirelessly to set up motivations and potential explanations for multiple suspects, but the murderer is eventually revealed to be the most obvious candidate. While the Glass Onion metaphor — a layered, multifaceted object with a clear center — does attempt to explain it, the reveal of the murderer still comes off as somewhat uninspired. 

In addition, I would have liked the characters in the film to have more development. Though this may be typical in a murder mystery, each character seems to have a single character trait that is overexaggerated throughout the film, leaving little room to explore any complexities in the characters. I believe that, if the film showed a bit more character development or featured more complete character arcs, it would have been even more compelling.

Despite these flaws, I still had a great time with “Glass Onion.” The characters were fun, albeit a bit oversimplified, and the story had a satisfying structure. Because it features a good murder mystery with an anticlimactic ending, I would say that this would be a great film for someone who enjoys the journey rather than the destination.