Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery review: Daniel Craig takes a bath

Glass Onion: Knives Out 2
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Daniel Craig has a wash and tries to solve a mystery in the second Knives Out film – and here’s our review.

Evidently bolstered by a significantly improved budget, the second mystery in writer/director Rian Johnson’s Knives Out saga nonetheless plays by the same rules as the first. A disparate bunch of characters are drawn together to a single location, there’s a crime, and Daniel Craig’s investigator Benoit Blanc is brought along to try and sort everything out.

Once he’s had a wash.

This time though, the setting isn’t a stately home, but a private island a James Bond villain wouldn’t look out of place on. Owned by Edward Norton’s ultra-rich Miles Bron, the main ensemble are invited not by a simple letter, but by a puzzle box.

Thus, amongst those transported to the luxury surroundings are Dave Bautista’s Duke, Kate Hudson’s Birdie Jay, Kathyrn Hahn’s Claire, Jessica Henwick’s Peg, Leslie Odom Jr’s Lionel and Janelle Monae’s Andi. Johnson confidently and breezily shows us them solving the puzzles, via fast-moving split-screen, and firmly re-establishes the tone. There will be laughs. There will be mysteries to solve. And none of them travel to the posh retreat via Ryan Air.

It’s best I go light on plot as inevitably a large slice of the fun of a whodunnit is, well, working out whodiddit. Johnson doesn’t skimp on that side of the film either. Clues are layered, moments happen that you wonder if they’ll have relevance later on, and all the while Norton’s Miles – think Elon Musk, just without a Twitter account – gamely tries to oversee everything as the perfect host. Who would have thought that a film character of a needy billionaire would be so resonant?

The first hour of all of this is an absolute blast. Seemingly effortlessly funny, it’s something of a masterclass in using editing to enhance wit, but also in getting a terrific ensemble together and giving them quality material to work with. It’s interesting too that in the midst of it all it’s a bit of a lockdown film, but not in the sense of it being contained to one room with everyone sitting a fair way apart. Instead, lockdown becomes part of the setup, not least when we’re first reintroduced to supersleuth Benoit Blanc, bored out of his skull and wearing fetching head attire in the bath. There’s a merchandise line in the making here.

As much as you get a starry cast for Netflix’s chequebook here, as soon as Craig wanders into shot – even if it’s just lurking in the background, having a look around – you can’t take your eyes off him. I remember watching Logan Lucky and admiring Craig’s relatively untapped comedy ability, and here, it’s utterly uncorked. The control of his delivery, the impact of his character and the sheer presence is quite something. Glass Onion is, by some distance, the funniest film I’ve seen on a cinema screen all year.

I confess though I was yearning for a little of the tightness of this year’s much lower budget See How They Run, that vacuum-packed its own whodunnit to the point where it left change from 100 minutes. In the case of Glass Onion, just as it was with Knives Out, the clock goes notably past the two hour mark, and it does start to feel it. Sure, Johnson pulls out a medley of tricks and surprises, and the film never drops to less than engaging. But on reflection, I warmed a little more to the mystery of the first film, and laughed a lot more at the second.

It still all leaves Daniel Craig’s Blanc in phenomenally rude health, and there’s no competition – sorry Kenneth – for the crown of the best big screen detective at the moment. I do wonder though if the already-commissioned third film could slim things down just a little, and have us yearning for more by the (beautiful end credits), rather than thinking it all could have been wrapped up ten minutes earlier. A case of scissors out, perhaps.

I’ll get my own coat.

With thanks to the Midlands Arts Centre

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