I’m not much for whodunits. I read the Sherlock Holmes stories in primary and middle school, as well as a couple of Agatha Christies; in secondary school I watched the first few seasons of the PBS Sherlock Holmes adaptations. I never tried to solve the puzzles and just read along enjoying the detective solving the problem I particularly enjoyed some of Edgar Allan Poe’s atmospheric detective stories. I happened to watch Knives Out #1 last year because my brother wanted to. I tried to solve the mystery, and did not succeed. The film subverted my expectations pleasantly. I enjoyed the offbeat character of Benoit Blanc. The other characters, though stock, were pleasantly rendered. I enjoyed the locations and cinematography, and the brisk pace. At this remove, all I remember is the perpetually wide-eyed of the nurse character. A neat film, where all the details fit into an efficient and coherent whole.
When I heard about the sequel, I was ambivalent. The Marvel franchise, among others, has made me sceptical. I enjoyed the first Avengers movie, and a couple of those that followed, but the franchise as a whole has long since become its own parody. The glamorous posters for Knives Out #2 did not allay my apprehensions: too glamorous. The first hour of the film increased my apprehensions: the frenetic pace of the puzzle-box opening sequence, the technical wizardry, the glamorous costumes, and then the Greek Island location, all made me highly suspicious. Films often use glamour and technical pyrotechnics to distract the viewer’s gaze from the void where the film’s heart or substance should be.
At the end of Glass Onion’s first hour, I was wondering impatiently when something was going to happen. I thought the tension-increasing device of the Mona Lisa screen snapping up and down was far too intrusive. I confess that by the end of the film, when its purpose was revealed, I was highly appreciative. Like the puzzle box at the beginning of the film – that is quite an obvious metaphor for the film’s ambition as a whole – everything does fit together neatly. Even the glamour turns out to be the distraction device that the film is deploying on the viewer, just as one of the characters has orchestrated this whole weekend as a distraction device.
Getting back to when I was watching the film, without the benefit of hindsight – when the film switches, after the first hour, to two lengthy flashbacks, I was totally thrown off. I don’t want to spoil the film, so I’ll just say that the device used was quite common in detective mysteries as well as Shakespearean comedies. I was apprehensive, and still am, about how that device could have worked in real life. But Glass Onion isn’t meant to be realistic. The device works well enough to sort of suspend disbelief within the toy universe of the aptly-named Glass Onion. Another lingering point of doubt I have is whether someone who is allergic to something would really miss its presence in their vicinity. Maybe if they were in a highly emotional state, which was the case here.
The resolution of the mystery is very satisfying. All the details that go to solve the mystery are presented while the action is going down in the first place. A viewer with even sub-Holmesian observational skills (not me) would solve the murder before it happens.
Overall, an entertaining film, with neatly fitting parts, and just a couple of holes: let’s call them vents to admit fresh air into this artificial, brightly-coloured, watch-like structure.
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