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#TIFF22 Review: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Special Presentations)

September 18, 2022

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8th to 18th.

With Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Rian Johnson returns with a big budget follow up to his 2019 surprise hit Knives Out, and I wouldn’t think of spoiling what transpires, but I’m also not going to bury the lede; I did not love this film, an opinion that will surely put me squarely in the critical minority.

Produced by Netflix, who forked over $469 million for the rights to develop at least two more movies, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a less clever and more obvious film that sets the series up as an Agatha Christie-inspired anthology of unconnected stories, with Daniel Craig’s detective Benoit Blanc as the one through-line. Blanc is back to investigate a new mystery this time around, which centres around a different ensemble cast of characters.

The setup is simple; tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) sends out a collection of puzzle boxes inviting a few of his closest allies, a group of public figures dubbed “the disruptors,” to his private Greek island. Among them are politician Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), social media influencer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), Twitch streamer Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), and Bron’s former partner Cassandra Brand (Janelle Monáe). But there is potentially trouble afoot, and Blanc once again senses “foul play.”

While I maybe didn’t love the first Knives Out as much as some, I still liked it. It was an enjoyable and contained murder mystery that featured some clever writing and enjoyable performances. If the first film was a bit over-the-top but still grounded in a slightly self-aware campiness, this one often feels like a sitcom, with its high-pitched performances and obvious humour. The story is set during the pandemic as a way to try and ground it in the real world, but the obligatory jokes about masks and Zoom meetings feel instantly stale.

Yes, the first Knives Out felt a bit obvious as a post-2016 political satire, but it was at least effective; the politics of Glass Onion are completely on-the-nose and about as deep as what you might find on TikTok (as a satire of the ultra-rich, Triangle of Sadness is much more scathing and entertaining). Johnson is also so obsessed with his own sense of self-importance that the entire film has a smugness to it that I found irritating after a while.

The entire cast also overacts in an ironic way that is meant to be funny, but it’s a very hard thing to pull off, and they don’t always succeed. Craig does continue to amuse as the Southern-accented detective, though it’s a role that I imagine could wear thin depending on how long they choose to continue this franchise (not dissimilar to how Johnny Depp’s initially inspired portrayal of Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films grew tired after the third go-around).

There is maybe a tighter edit of this movie that is at least more fun, but Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery runs for a whopping, wholly self-indulgent 139 minutes, spending way too long on its buildup in the first act. There is about fifty minutes of this film that is all setup, and it takes too long to really get going. Johnson’s writing is also never quite as smart or clever as it seems to think it is (“it’s so dumb, it’s brilliant!” a character exclaims at one point, to which Craig’s Blanc retorts “no, it’s just dumb,” in a rare moment of self-awareness).

The film is also surprisingly easy to piece together once it shows its main hand, and if you did miss anything, it literally spends the second half over-explaining everything to us. There are some fun reveals, sure, and your mileage will definitely vary. But Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is bloated and way too long, with ridiculous twists and ironic overacting. Maybe I’m just tired from over a week of TIFF, but I found the whole thing to be more exhausting than entertaining.

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 10th – 6:00 PM at VISA Screening Room at the Princess of Wales

Sunday, September 11th – 11:00 AM at VISA Screening Room at the Princess of Wales

Monday, September 12th – 9:30 PM at Scotiabank 2

Tuesday, September 13th – 6:00 PM at Ontario Place Cinesphere

Thursday, September 15th – 9:30 PM at Ontario Place Cinesphere

Friday, September 16th – 1:00 PM at Royal Alexandra Theatre

Saturday, September 17th – 9:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

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