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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

“The Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is a gift for the amateur sleuth

The murder mystery genre is criminally underrated

 

By YASMEEN O’BRIEN — yjobrien@ucdavis.edu

 

As a young girl, I was fascinated by solving mysteries. My father is a detective, so I like to believe it’s in my blood. I would turn simple tasks into stories to solve, assuming it would help me when I eventually followed in his footsteps. I read Nancy Drew by flashlight in my closet, believing it taught me to think critically, and snuck into my father’s case files when he wasn’t home. When I got a little older, he would occasionally ask for my opinion on a case — what story I thought the evidence told. Following clues made me feel intelligent and important, and it gave me a thrill like no other. 

Rian Johnson’s “The Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” carefully and magnificently gifts the audience with this electrifying thrill, making you feel giddy and accomplished when you solve the case. As the second installment in the series, it is sunnier and sillier than the first. With eccentric costumes, expansive shots of dazzling Greek scenery, plentiful clues and comedic relief, it is undoubtedly an entertaining and intellectually stimulating watch.

The story unfolds as world-renowned Southern detective Benoit Blanc travels to Greece for his latest case after receiving an invitation to a murder mystery party on a private island. The island belongs to Miles Bron, a self-absorbed tech billionaire who has also invited five of his long-time friends to participate in a game solving his own murder. However, it soon becomes clear that what bonds the five friends are their individual debts to Bron. Each one owes their current fame, wealth or career to him. As the weekend unravels, mystery and murder abound as truths come to light and relationships are brought into question.

The film begins during the height of the pandemic, taking us back to a familiar time of mandatory masks, empty streets, “pods” and elbow bumps. It conjures that feeling of restlessness we know all too well and becomes a time capsule of an era we won’t soon forget.

We meet the main characters as each receives an invitation to the island amidst their pandemic lifestyles. There’s Claire, the politician who is working from home with her husband and children; Birdie Jay, a washed-up model-turned-clothing-designer who is unflatteringly, though blissfully, ignorant of the world around her; Lionel, an accomplished scientist who respects authority; Duke, a body-building, gun-loving professional video gamer; and Andi, the estranged co-founder of Bron’s very successful tech company. Each character is specific and calculated, as if they are pieces in a game of “Clue.” Clearly done with intention, this homage to the art of murder mystery makes “The Glass Onion” all the more captivating.

Against the sparkling Aegean Sea, Benoit Blanc casts a shadow as the deliverer of justice. The audience views the film through his watchful eye, searching for clues alongside him. Slowly, you begin to realize you are being taught a lesson: If you are attentive enough to the people around you, the story reveals itself. Writer and Director Rian Johnson artfully brings out the sleuth in all of us. He has revived a genre that offers us so much. It teaches us to be observant, imaginative, questioning, thoughtful and aware.

It is no easy task to achieve a successful murder mystery. They often end up cheesy or predictable and are hard to sit through. This is not the case with “The Glass Onion.” With provocative characters, a stunning backdrop and a plot twist so juicy it drips, this film is a must-see for all.

 

Written by: Yasmeen O’Brien — yjobrien@ucdavis.edu

 

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