Spielberg had never played a film at TIFF, but Rian Johnson is a veteran. Three years ago, he premiered “Knives Out” at the Princess of Wales in Toronto, and he returned tonight with its sequel “Glass Onion,” a film that really goes by the sequel model of “bigger, faster, more” theory of follow-ups. That’s not meant to be as much of a knock as it sounds, although there will be some who argue that the first film is breezier and that whodunits shouldn’t clock in at 140 minutes. They’re not really wrong, and yet there’s just SO much to savor in this movie—so many sharp turns, beautiful settings, clever lines, and playful performances. In many ways, it’s a more “fun” movie than the first—one can feel the joy everyone on set had as they stepped into Johnson’s puzzle of a screenplay and played their piece.
Don’t worry. No spoilers will follow.
“Glass Onion” opens with a beauty of a set-up. A tech billionaire named Miles Bron (Edward Norton) is inviting his old friends to a murder mystery party on a Greek isle. He calls them his “disruptors,” people who don’t play by the rules and often get into trouble for doing so. There’s model Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), who has made enough social media blunders that her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick) has taken away her phone. There’s Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), a macho Twitch streamer who likes to talk about boobs and guns and brings his girlfriend (Madelyn Cline) along on the trip. Her name is Whiskey. There’s the politician who Miles has bankrolled to do his bidding, Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn). And there’s tech whiz Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), whom Miles faxes wild ideas in the middle of the night and expects Lionel to make them real. Oh, and there’s Cassandra Brand (the scene-stealing Janelle Monae), the other half of the company that Bron used to make his billions before selling her out. Finally, there’s an unexpected guest at the party, a man that Miles claims to have not even invited, one Mr. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).
That’s where the plot description will stop, although it would be honestly difficult to spoil this film in 1,000 words or less because it has that many twists and turns. Even the identity of the victim (or possibly victims) is unexpected, much less the final results of Blanc’s latest investigation. Suffice to say, this is another case in which everyone on this island wants someone else on this island dead. Blanc is wading into a sea of rich, spoiled, stupid piranha, and Johnson is once again unpacking how wealth and fame do not equal intelligence or decency—in fact, the opposite is often true. The first film was about old money, and the second film is about new money, the kind often granted to the most vicious and luckiest people over those who deserve it.