"Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery": Daniel Craig plays "Cluedo" with great joy

When "Knives Out - Mord ist Familiensache" found its way into German cinema at the beginning of 2020, audiences and critics were exceptionally unanimous: Director Rian Johnson (49) succeeded in capturing the spirit of Agatha Christie (1890-1976 ) in a clever way into the modern age.

"Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery": Daniel Craig plays "Cluedo" with great joy

When "Knives Out - Mord ist Familiensache" found its way into German cinema at the beginning of 2020, audiences and critics were exceptionally unanimous: Director Rian Johnson (49) succeeded in capturing the spirit of Agatha Christie (1890-1976 ) in a clever way into the modern age. Netflix immediately got down to business: The streaming provider ordered two in-house sequels of the strip, promoted leading actor Daniel Craig (54) to Hollywood's top earner and also gave the 007 a.D. the next franchise role with cult potential in the form of master detective Benoit Blanc.

The first of these two sequels, which was shown in cinemas for a short time, will start on Netflix on December 23 and is called "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery". Johnson could no longer rely on the element of surprise in the debut. An even more daring trick had to be found so that the viewers could once again get lost in their brains. Whether the filmmaker has succeeded in doing this as satisfactorily as in part one should ask crime fans the same question of conscience that Johnson had asked the "Star Wars" fans with "The Last Jedi" in 2017.

Benoit Blanc (Craig) paws his hooves. Since the spectacular case of the murdered crime writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer, 1929-2021) a few years ago, the master detective has been waiting for the next challenge for his brilliant mind. When a woman shows up at his door one day with a dubious box, his prayers seem to have been answered.

Said puzzle box contains - if solved correctly - an invitation from the tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton, 53) to his private island. The biggest mystery for Blanc, however, seems to be why he was chosen as the visionary's guest in the first place: while all the other recipients of one of the boxes are Bron's companions, those of the two men have never crossed paths before. The confusion is perfect when even the host has no idea why Blanc is suddenly standing in front of his filthy rich nose on the dream beach. When the first corpse lies in front of the party group a few boisterous hours later, his whereabouts are appreciated all the more.

It's not Blanc who's hot on the trail of a murder in "Glass Onion", the opposite is apparently the case. In the course of the film, however, not only is Blanc's presence on the island explained, but a radical change of course prompts a new way of looking at what has already been shown. However, this revision of the evidence does not fit into the murder case as organically as in "Knives Out". Instead, some viewers feel they were being duped by Johnson, because he deliberately withheld information about the case through selected cuts and time jumps. Basically, it is not the case itself that causes the biggest question marks at the beginning, but only its staging.

After all, the filmmaker also finds a substantive reason why his main character does not initially play with open cards. Suffice it to say that the audience is up to about halfway through the film with the knowledge of the other party guests and is only brought on board by Blanc via a flashback. Until then, Johnson is openly feasting on a few classics: "A Corpse for Dessert", "Evil Under the Sun" and once more "Murder on the Orient Express" are each given their respective homage. A strong meta moment: Just as the rules of the game "Cluedo" come to mind at one point of Blanc's investigation method, the film also quotes from the crime board game and catches its audience in the act.

Daniel Craig as a flirtatious detective with a thick southern accent is again sparkling with enthusiasm. As in "Knives Out" he gets a female sidekick. This time it's Janelle Monáe (37) instead of Ana de Armas (34) with whom he solves the case - like the eponymous "glass onion" - layer by layer. Monáe does her job very well, too, but the new duo doesn't quite match the charming chemistry that prevailed between Craig and de Armas.

In general, the cast of "Glass Onion" may not seem quite as epochal as in "Knives Out". However, considering Kate Hudson, 43, Dave Bautista, 53, Leslie Odom Jr., 41, and the aforementioned Edward Norton, that's whining at the highest level. Especially him and Hudson's joy in playing is clearly noticeable: She mimes the naive-stupid ex-starlet, he the pseudo-intellectual technology visionary who just hangs the real Mona Lisa in the lounge. Strong swipes against real role models such as Elon Musk and Steve Jobs are unmistakable.

It is well known that in many areas the path can be the goal. With crime stories, however, this is a fine line. If the resolution seems too clumsy or too implausible, the chosen destination can very well screw up the narrative journey there. In "Glass Onion" the happy coincidences and twists that aren't as easy to swallow as in the predecessor increase as the runtime progresses. As a result, the path also has one or two stumbling blocks ready.

For two reasons, however, the finale of "Glass Onion" in particular offers a target for attack: Compared to the already overstylized film, it's staged a bit more garishly than the rest, almost like a farce. At the same time, the resolution of the case is fundamentally innovative, but not particularly spectacular. Ironically, such a trick recently had a name from Rian Johnson: "subvert expectations", i.e. the maneuver to consciously undermine the expectations of the audience in favor of a surprise effect.

With "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" Johnson ensured with this approach that a deep ditch has been drawn through the fan camp since then. One side loved the paradigm shift, the other loathed it. Now, of course, compared to "Star Wars", "Knives Out" is still in its infancy as a franchise. But even now, some fans of the first work will worry that Benoit Blanc aka Daniel Craig may have solved his best case first in 2020.

Due to the immense success of "Knives Out", director and screenwriter Rian Johnson put the knife to his own throat for the sequel "Glass Onion". He wasn't quite able to reproduce the sophistication of the predecessor, the final layer of the "glass onion" turned out to be too thin for that. In a positive sense, the infantile playfulness of the entire cast and especially that of Daniel Craig and Edward Norton brings tears to the eyes - without any onions.

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