Spoilers for Glass Onion (obviously) and The Sixth Sense (for some reason)

I’d like to start this review of Glass Onion in the most sensible of all places: M. Night Shyamalan. Shyamalan exploded onto the Hollywood scene with his big picture debut, The Sixth Sense. In the climax of this film, it is revealed that Bruce Willis was a ghost the whole time, and that nine-year-old Cole, who can “see dead people”, is helping his spirit to pass on. This is arguably cinema’s most famous twist, right up there with Darth Vader’s “I am your father”. And it’s a great twist that people really liked. So much so that it set somewhat of a precedent for Shyamalan films. People expect twists from him going forward, and Shyamalan was happy to oblige. Sadly, some of his later ones were extremely disappointing. Take Signs for example, a film about aliens that invade earth, a planet whose surface is roughly 70% water, and where it rains. The big twist is that they share the same weakness as the Wicked Witch of the West, and water kills them. Like, come on Shyamalan, you had to know that was stupid. A shame really, given it ends an otherwise solid flick on a very flat note.

This precedent, this need to one-up yourself that devolves films into a primordial sludge of plot holes and idiocracy, is what I like to call the Shyamalan effect. An effect that I was terrified would knee-cap Glass Onion, a follow-up to 2019’s wildly successful mystery comedy Knives Out. Given that Knives Out was so surprising, and is such a meticulously crafted narrative of twists and deception, I had this sneaking suspicion that Glass Onion would collapse under its own weight. So, the question remains: did it? 

Nope. Glass Onion rules. With a tiny caveat…

Before we get onto that though, I want to talk about the aspect of the film that seems to be the most universally loved. It is, of course, Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc. In just two films, Blanc has quickly ascended up my personal list of best protagonists of all time. With a third instalment he might be right up there with Han Solo from Star Wars, Ray from In Bruges and Po from Kung Fu Panda. Blanc is the clear highlight of both Knives Out films, and Craig plays him to perfection. A wonderful melting pot of camp, sarcastic wit, compassion, and that hilariously over-the-top accent, he makes for one hell of a lead. The huge Bond fan inside of me is screaming as I type this, but this might just be my favourite role of Craig’s. 

Of course, a lot of the elements that made Knives Out so magical are carried over as well. We have another eccentric cast of unlikeable assholes, with special props going to Edward Norton as Miles Bron and Janelle Monáe as Helen and Andi, my two stand-outs beside Craig. There’s a huge amount of catharsis in seeing the gang get taken down, more so than in Knives Out due to mounting tensions regarding a certain painting. Glass Onion is also just really funny, although it rarely gets funnier than the moment five minutes in where they play Among Us…

I also just want to take a quick second to mention how stunning everything in Glass Onion looks. Knives Out is by no means an ugly film, and the country mansion setting gives it an aura of autumnal calmness, but even still it pales in comparison to the Greek island that plays host to the events of Glass Onion. While the whole thing is gorgeous, my personal favourite shots are the ones of the gang of ‘disruptors’ lined up on the yacht, and Blanc waist-deep in the pool, drink in hand and clad in his ridiculous 50s swimsuit. You can tell when certain shots are going to become iconic, and I think writer and director Rian Johnson knew he’d cracked it with these ones.

So, long story short, Glass Onion is great and if you haven’t already seen it you should stop reading now and go watch it. But the question that everyone I’ve spoken to about the film asks is ‘how does it compare to Knives Out?’. And this is where the slight caveat comes in. I think the actual ‘murder mystery’ is done better in Knives Out. The original plays with the mystery tropes flawlessly, constantly shifting what the audience is actually trying to guess (who did it, to how will they get away with it, to who really did it etc.). In this case, I think the strongest part of Knives Out’s narrative is in the dramatic reveal. Glass Onion is… not like that. In fact, we aren’t even aware of a murder until about halfway through the film. The first half is therefore more about guessing what will happen, rather than what has happened, as with most Agatha Christie-esque mysteries. To top it all off, the solution is the single most obvious one anyone could ever have gone for. The big twist is barely a twist at all. 

But here’s the thing: I absolutely loved this. Yes, I understand that fans wanting a head-scratching unsolvable mystery à la ‘And Then There Were None’ will be disappointed, but holy hell I adored the audacity of this film. I mean, it’s literally called Glass Onion – directly named after a Beatles’ song about how there is no hidden meaning, complexity or layers. Plus, they straight up show one of the murders happening right in front of you! Most people I know (me included) missed it. By all accounts, this should be the most obvious murder mystery of all time. Yet, because I was expecting a huge twist, I completely discredited the simple solution, no matter how loudly Johnson screamed it at me. The climactic reveal is not a dramatic monologue by Blanc, but instead him lamenting how stupid the whole scenario is – and good lord is it hilarious. Johnson has done the miraculous here – the Shyamalan effect has been weaponized, and actually enhances the film.

This is where I’m at with Glass Onion then; is it as solid a mystery as Knives Out? No. Is it more entertaining though? Definitely. It’s funnier, prettier, and while the social commentary (a takedown of idiot billionaires and the weird cults that develop around them) is pretty shallow, it is undoubtedly hilarious and still well executed. Glass Onion isn’t as sharp as Knives Out by any means, although it is twice as fun. Needless to say, I am extremely excited to see where Benoit Blanc goes next. Who knows, maybe in the next film he’ll finally be able to win a game of Among Us.