Knives Out, directed by Rian Johnson, was an instant hit upon its 2019 debut. My entire family enjoyed it, and it was the last time we all laughed together in a movie theater for at least three years. A world-famous detective (Daniel Craig’s drawling super-sleuth Benoit Blanc) is called in after one of the movie stars (playing different social kinds) is murdered in a confined, isolated setting (in this case, a Gothic estate in Massachusetts). What could be a more straightforward setup for a story that ends up including social stratification, intergenerational conflict, a triple-fakeout twist, and sweaters that go viral almost immediately?
Glass Onion, Johnson’s new novel released this Thanksgiving, is not a traditional sequel because the story’s location and all but one of the characters have been completely revamped. Rather, it’s a brand-new Benoit Blanc mystery, a conceptual homage to the days of the Pink Panther or Sherlock Holmes, when a colorful crime-solver was the one constant amid seemingly disparate universes. (More recently, Kenneth Branagh has also brought back Hercule Poirot for Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, although despite the former’s strong box office performance, neither has had the flare to equal either Knives Out or that investigator’s amazing mustache.)
This time, Blanc is solving a case not involving a wealthy family fighting over inherited property, but rather, a get-together of long-lost friends on a very expensive private island. Miles Bron, a tech tycoon played by Edward Norton, has invited a diverse group of people who want to be influential to a dinner he has set up as a murder mystery. At the dinner, Miles will be symbolically killed, and the guests’ job will be to figure out who did it and why.
The suspects are initially shown in a split-screen phone conversation and are more than happy to help. A former model named Birdie (Kate Hudson) likes to portray herself as a courageous internet truth-teller, much to the embarrassment of her publicist (Jessica Henwick). There is a smart scientist working with Miles right now, and his name is Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.).
Duke (Dave Bautista), accompanied by his arm candy lover Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), is a men’s rights YouTube celebrity aspiring to break into more traditional media. Connecticut’s governor, Claire (Kathryn Hahn), is a smooth-talking neoliberal with moral ambiguities. Andi (Janelle Monáe) is Miles’ ex-girlfriend; she was instrumental in the development of the software that made him wealthy but was stiffed out of her fair share of the earnings.
Benoit Blanc is not a member of this established gang of self-proclaimed “disrupters,” but for some reason he has also been invited on their lavish trip to the Greek island retreat Miles has called after the Beatles song of the same name.