Glass Onion: Deceit in Plain Sight.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. 

A film review and discussion by Kate O’Brien. 

This review is the second part of my two-piece review set of Knives Out and Glass Onion. 

As I said in my Knives Out review, these pieces were intended to complement each other, however they can also be read independently as I consider the films to be stand-alone pieces.

You do not have to watch Knives Out to understand Glass Onion, however I feel that Glass Onion steps beyond Knives Out. 

This is a phrase I used in the first part of this review set, and it is a phrase that I will explain and expand upon now in part two. 

Glass Onion was written and directed by Rian Johnson. 

The film was released in September 2022. 

I am going to talk about the plot, the characters, the themes, and I am going to talk about whether or not I prefer one film over the other. As always, these discussions are intended to be in-depth so there will be spoilers ahead. Consider yourselves fairly warned. 

The only character to return to our screens is Detective Benoit Blanc. He is just as larger than life as he was when we were first introduced to him. I will admit now that I really like this character. 

Glass Onion brings to our screens one of my favourite plot devices of all time – Get a group of people with wildly different personalities and trap them in a single location. Allow chaos to ensue. 

This film takes place on a private island in Greece, owned by the ultra rich Miles Bron. 

The plot is set into motion when he sends mysterious invitations to his friends. They are to join him on his private Greek island for a murder mystery party weekend where they will compete to solve his “murder.” Miles throws these kinds of parties every year, and the group seems delighted to receive invitations. 

This brings me to breaking down our cast. 

We meet Claire, the governor of Connecticut. She is running for the US Senate. She is uptight, and as the film plays out, we learn that every decision she makes is made with politics in mind. 

We meet Lionel. Lionel is a head scientist who works at Miles’s company. Lionel’s co-workers appear to be questioning Miles when the film begins, and Lionel agrees that Miles and his ideas can be out there. Some lead to nothing, but some lead to massive success, and that is why he has the company. Lionel seems to be loyal to Miles and his ideas as he is hoping that the next seemingly “crazy” idea will be the next huge success. 

We meet Birdie Jay. Birdie is a ditzy supermodel who is pretending to be a designer in Manhattan. Birdie prides herself on “telling it like it is,” and she doesn’t care if she says things that are politically incorrect and very offensive. She just wants to drink and enjoy herself in Greece. 

Peg is Birdie’s assistant. She is trying her hardest to keep Birdie from ruining herself. She takes Birdie’s phone and attempts to dissuade her from posting awful things online. Peg is unfortunately in a bad position herself as her CV largely consists of working for Birdie, and because Birdie is so offensive, she and her CV are not popular either. 

Duke Cody is a streamer and a self-proclaimed men’s rights activist. He gets a thrill out of upsetting people online by saying things that are considered wildly offensive and at times, downright misogynistic. In reality, he lives with his mother and she is not afraid to give him a smack if he attempts to give her cheek. 

Whiskey is Duke’s girlfriend. She also works for him on his streaming platforms. As the film plays out, audiences learn that Whiskey is a lot smarter than people likely gave her credit for when the film began. The film wants audiences to believe that she is a “dumb blonde” when the film begins, and Whiskey also knows that this is what people assume about her, so she leans into the stereotype so that it will serve her while she is attempting to build a career. 

The last two characters, the main characters whom this film revolves around are twin sisters, Helen and Andi. We’ll talk about them later. 

All of these characters arrive on the island excited to participate in the murder mystery weekend.

Blanc, who has been itching for a new case is also delighted to be invited, only the plot thickens when Miles reveals that he did not send Blanc an invitation. 

Now we must ask two questions. 

Who sent Blanc the invite? Why did they send Blanc the invite? These are two key questions, as Blanc tells Miles that an anonymous invite is not to be messed with. Blanc observes the group and how they all know each other. The key piece of information to take note of is the fact that each member of the group is linked monetarily to Miles. He has financial control over each and every one of them. Blanc sees this power dynamic for what it is, and he tells Miles that everyone in the group has a reason to hurt him. He declares this is like “Putting a loaded gun on the table and turning the lights off.” 

At dinner, Miles is giddy to kick off the murder mystery. He hired an author to write the mystery. He is so excited for everyone to take part. He keeps declaring that it will take them the entire weekend. Blanc debunks the mystery in two minutes, before the fake arrow has a chance to pierce Miles in the heart. It is a very funny scene. Blanc then declares that he wants to solve the real mystery, who invited him and why? 

With the weekend-long mystery now solved, the group are deciding whether or not they will stay the entire weekend or if they will go home early. Miles wants them to stay, they can still have a great time. The music blares, the drinks are flowing. Birdie is dancing. Everyone is drunk and enjoying themselves, happy to stay and just have fun. The real plot begins when things take a horrible turn. Duke dies. At first everyone thought that he was choking, but there was nothing in his throat. He dies. He had just been drinking from a glass, so the next thought is what if he was was poisoned? 

Another twist – Duke had taken a drink from Miles’s glass and not his own. 

The two glasses were very similar. This means that Duke was not the target. Miles was. 

Now Blanc’s original observations take the spotlight again. All members of this group have a motive to want Miles dead. So now Blanc must investigate who attempted to kill Miles. 

Andi is the most likely suspect. Andi was Miles’s business partner and the co-founder of the company. When Andi did not agree with a business decision Miles was making, she threatened to walk away and take half of the company with her. Miles tampered with the contracts, causing her to lose her position entirely. Andi tried to sue, as she created their company and sketched out the plans on a napkin in their local bar years ago. Unfortunately, because she could not find the napkin before the trial, this was her word against his. The rest of the group corroborated Miles and his version of events, lying on the stand because of his monetary control over them. Andi lost the case, and lost everything with it, so it would be easy to assume that she wanted Miles dead as a form of revenge. 

Before moving on to discuss the murder itself, the whodunit, I want to dive into the themes that this film explores. I would suggest that the main themes of Glass Onion are ideas of money and power, and ideas of relevance and integrity. 

Miles is a figure who holds an enormous amount of power and wealth. He continuously uses his wealth to get his way, and his wealth allows him to exert power over the people in his life. 

Miles is cocky and greedy, and he is a sinister type because he wants to come across as so chill, as so relaxed, as someone who loves his friends and just wants to have a good time. Underneath the chill exterior, there is a sinister level of control. What he says goes, because he is the one who funds everyone and everything, and he can make people’s lives come crashing down if they don’t do what he wants. Miles has a gigantic ego. He wants his name to go down in history beside the Mona Lisa. He wants to be immortal. He not only wants this, but he feels he deserves this level of glory. 

The group is very interesting and the dynamics of the group make it very easy for the plot to explore these kinds of themes. They call themselves “the disrupters.” This is a group of people who pride themselves on causing disruption. They’re proud of themselves. They consider themselves to be a group of brave, unique people who are unafraid to disrupt the status quo. 

They tell it like it is, they push the system, they step out over the edge. They’ve got guts! 

They are frauds. Andi’s sister Helen says it best. “They call themselves disruptors, they’re shitheads!” (This is a paraphrased line.) 

This point brings me to mentioning Andi’s twin sister Helen. What could be better than incorporating identical twins into a whodunit plot? Ah the hijinks that can ensue. 

Hijinks do ensue. We learn that Andi is not Andi after all, instead Helen has taken her place on the trip and it was her who brought Blanc the invitation because she needed his help. 

Through a series of flashbacks we learn that Andi is dead, and her death was ruled a suicide. 

Helen is suspicious, she does not believe that her sister would kill herself. So she has a look on Andi’s computer. In court, Andi’s case fell through because she could not find the napkin that she drew the original idea for the company on. Miles lied and said he drew that napkin, and everyone else in the group lied on the stand. After the case, Andi found the original napkin, one that has the old bar’s logo embossed on it. This is a detail that the fake napkin Miles drew up does not have. This detail will prove that Andi was right and she will take Miles down. Before her death, Andi sent an email to everyone in the group to let them know that she found the napkin. 

After this email, she ended up dead. Helen believes she was killed and she wants Blanc to help her uncover the truth. 

I’m jumping between plot and themes, similar to how I did in my review of Knives Out.

The film jumps back and forth in time, and so I feel that the best way I can talk about the themes and how they are highlighted by the twists in the film is by jumping back and forth in my writing. I mentioned earlier that integrity is a major theme in this film. 

Helen, Blanc, and Andi have integrity. Miles has none, and the rest of the disruptors have none for the majority of the film. 

Miles wanted to get big bucks quickly, despite there being safety concerns and tests that need to be done. The huge idea that he wants to put forward is Alpha’s alternative fuel. Andi didn’t want this to go ahead because of the safety concerns. Lionel and Claire don’t want to launch just yet because there is still two years of testing to be done, Miles wants to introduce “Klear” to the world and he wants to do it now. He tells the group that his Greek island is running off the alternative fuel already so there is no need to do more tests. 

Lionel and Claire are angry with Miles, but they are going to end up doing as he says because Lionel wants to keep his job, and Claire’s political career is bankrolled by Miles, and if she does not go along with his ideas, he will endorse her opponent. People’s safety is going to be compromised because this billionaire has no patience and he is determined to get his way. 

Birdie has no integrity. She has no concept of follow-through. She is a “designer” who made bank after being cancelled during the pandemic, but it is all going to come crashing down because it is going to be revealed that her products were being made in a terrible sweatshop. 

Miles has convinced Birdie to take full responsibility for this, as doing so will mean she takes the public fall and it would hide the fact that he was a major investor. Peg is desperately trying to get Birdie to reconsider, and we can see from their chats that Birdie really did not understand the full impact of what a sweatshop actually is. Birdie is ignorant, but she is willing to be cancelled and painted in a terrible public light because Miles is paying her off. She wants the money, she does not care if her character and reputation is ruined or if Peg’s is ruined with her. Birdie’s integrity is for sale. 

Duke just wanted to be on Alpha news. He knows he says controversial and offensive things, but controversy is publicity, and he wants people tuning in. He doesn’t care if what he says hurts others, offends others, or teaches younger viewers problematic things. He is in this game for himself. Whiskey is the same. 

This film really highlights how money can make people abandon their personal integrity. 

When the disruptors lied on the stand, they could not even look Andi in the eye. So they knew what they were doing was wrong, but they sold their souls and morals to Miles a long time ago. 

Helen just wants the truth. She wants to know what happened to her sister. 

Blanc wants to help Helen find the truth, but he warns her that he may be unable to get her justice. The two form a plan. He will use his connections to stop Andi’s death from being in the press straight away, buying them some time. She will come to the party with him, and she can snoop. Someone there is Andi’s killer, and Blanc warns Helen that they will know straight away that she is an imposter. He is not a bodyguard, he warns her that this is a dangerous plan, but they decide the truth must be found. 

Let’s talk about whodunit. 

Miles did it. Are we shocked? I don’t think so. This entire film is about deceit being in plain sight. The entire film is an illusion of smoke and mirrors, and details being shown plainly to our faces. When the dancing started and Birdie was spinning around in her dress, Miles told everyone to look at the amazing colours in her dress. When everyone was distracted and looking where Miles told them to look, he handed Duke his glass. Something that I was impressed by, because yes, we did rewind the film to check, was that this was not done in later shots. This happened the first time we saw this scene. The glass never touches the table, Miles does hand his glass to Duke, but it is done silently and quickly while our attention was purposely directed to something else. Duke died due to an allergic reaction. There was pineapple juice in the drink, and he is allergic. Duke tells audiences this at the beginning as the group are getting on the boat. It is a throwaway moment, he makes sure there is no pineapple in the health shot they are being given because “Duke don’t dance with pineapple.” This is such a great line because it could simply mean that he does not like pineapple. This casual phrase does not illustrate how severe his allergy is. Whiskey clarifies later that he can’t even have a drop. 

“It’s so dumb it’s brilliant!” Birdie shouts. 

Blanc shouts back. “No!!!! It’s just dumb!!” 

This might be my favourite exchange. 

Miles is the killer twice over. It was him who killed Andi when he found out that she would expose him with the napkin. The news broke while the group was dancing. Duke saw the news on his phone, and leveraged the information so that Miles would have to put him on Alpha news. 

Miles could not have this, so he gave Duke a drink that he was severely allergic to. Then he took Duke’s phone and his gun and turned off all the lights. This was Blanc’s idea. This action highlights what an absolute fraud Miles really is. He stole Andi’s idea. He bullies everyone financially even though he does the least amount of work. He hired a writer for his murder mystery, and then he stole Blanc’s idea about the gun and the lights to create panic and distraction. He also shot Helen, but thankfully the bullet missed. Playing dead gave her the opportunity to find the original napkin. 

When Helen does find the napkin that was hidden in plain sight in a picture frame, she returns to the group to expose Miles. Miles, cocky as ever, burns the napkin. This destroys the only proof that Helen has. Helen attempts to stand up to Miles, she says everyone saw him burn it, but Miles says that nobody saw a thing, and everyone reluctantly agrees. They say they saw nothing. They are cowards. This is quite a dark moment in a darkly funny film, because this moment highlights how many real life situations sadly play out. The person with the money can bully and intimidate people into singing their tune, and everyone else is forced into the role of the coward who must forfeit their morals and their integrity because they need the money. Helen goes mad. She angrily destroys sculptures, and she sets the Mona Lisa on fire. 

The world as Miles knows it comes crashing down. His fuel destroyed a priceless, globally renowned piece of art. Helen granted his wish. His name will always be remembered alongside the Mona Lisa. He is ruined. The disruptors stand up to Miles. They say that they did see the napkin before he burned it, highlighting that they will not be his puppets any longer. 

Helen gets to go home feeling satisfied that she got justice for her sister. 

I said earlier that this film steps beyond Knives Out. 

What do I mean by this? Knives Out brought a classic whodunit to our screens. It was eccentric, it was quirky, it was a bit out there, but at the end of the day it was a revival of the classic whodunit murder mystery movie. It was set in the big creepy house on the hill and the story revolved around the rich, dysfunctional family. Glass Onion steps beyond what this first film does. It is bigger. It is even more out there. I would liken it to the theatre of the absurd. It takes place on a private island that is run by a new form of fuel. Shots fired into one’s mouth means that everyone could have a Covid-free, safe time. The place has an abundance of riches. It seems surreal. It is why I love the line that it is not brilliant, it is just dumb. This film does not do anything that is particularly genius. It all boils down to greed, ego, and parlour tricks. It is just dumb! That is why it is so much fun. It is a film that shows the plot right in front of our eyes, hidden behind smoke and mirrors, and then the entire illusion is shattered. Con men of the past would get people to fall for their schemes by using slights of hand, tricks of the eye, and most importantly, they would gain people’s confidence. Miles was the puppet master. He told everyone to look at the pretty spinning colours and they did, and if it was not for the presence of Blanc, it is likely that he would have gotten away with it because the gang were so taken in by his control. 

I also said that I would decide if I preferred one film over the other, 

I would have to say that Glass Onion is my favourite of the two films. I thought the plot was very clever and fun. I thought it was very funny. I enjoyed the new set of characters. I loved how out there and almost absurd the plot was. I loved how the film was shot. I loved the breakdown of how everything happened in plain sight, and I adored the irony of Miles getting his wish. He was knocked off his greedy, rich, controlling, cocky high horse and his name will forever be linked to the Mona Lisa. He got his dream, but now it is his nightmare and this was a fantastic moment. I loved seeing Blanc again and I look forward to seeing him in another film although I am curious about what the plot will be. There are only so many ways that you can tell a story like this, however I am intrigued to see where Blanc will go next. With all of this being said, I must say that even though I do prefer Glass Onion, I don’t think this film could have stepped into this wonderfully absurd arena without having the foundation that was laid down in Knives Out. 

Knives Out subverted the tropes just enough, but there were classic murder mystery elements to the plot. That film laid down the groundwork, introduced audiences to Blanc and how he works, and that groundwork and our understanding of him as a character allowed him to step even further out there in Glass Onion. 
Overall I would highly recommend Glass Onion. I think it is a wonderfully absurd mystery that explores some really interesting themes. It is an extremely entertaining watch.

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