The first one was good … this one is better: an ingenious, headspinningly preposterous and enjoyable new whodunnit romp featuring Daniel Craig as the legendary detective from the deep south, Benoit Blanc. Writer-director Rian Johnson has established his own murder-mystery working model, positioned equidistantly between the Agatha Christie approach, in which the culprit is revealed at the very end, and the Columbo approach, in which it happens at the very beginning. Here, as in the first film, the guilty party’s identity gradually emerges in the second half – not so much a twist as an unfurling pirouette. But Johnson and his enigmatic, drawling sleuth keep us guessing.
Edward Norton is an insufferable tech bro called Miles Bron who has become a multitrillionaire through his stake in Alpha, an online network fusing data, news and cryptocurrency. He invites a whole bunch of pals and fellow “disruptors” to his private island with its giant domed building called the Glass Onion for a murder-mystery themed party: these include politician Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), supermodel turned designer Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), YouTuber and men’s rights activist Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), scientist Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr) and – most uncomfortably of all – Cassandra Brand (Janelle Monáe), who had the original idea for Alpha but was ousted from the company by Miles and his lawyers with hardly a dollar.
But also among the guests is Benoit Blanc himself. Bron says he didn’t invite Blanc, but lets him in anyway, amused by whatever prank his guests are apparently playing on him. His idea is that someone will fictionally “kill” their host and the guests have to figure out who and why. Things turn deadly serious and of course the ashen-faced guests turn to Benoit to save them.
Glass Onion is never anything less than entertaining, with its succession of A-lister and A-plus-lister cameos popping up all over the place. And Johnson uncorks an absolute showstopper of a flashback a half-hour or so into the action, which then unspools back up to the present day, giving us all manner of cheeky POV-shift reveals. Craig’s outrageous leisure-themed outfits are a joy and Monáe gives a tremendously likable comic performance as the woman with more than one secret to reveal and more than one grievance to hold against Norton’s loathsome Musk-ish plutocrat. Are eccentric detectives the new superheroes?
• Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is released on 23 November in cinemas, and on 23 December on Netflix.