2 min read

Okay but for real, how great is Glass Onion?

This is a brief spoiler-filled discussion of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Don't read this until you've watched the movie!
Okay but for real, how great is Glass Onion?
Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, class traitor

This is a brief spoiler-filled discussion of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Don't read this until you've watched the movie!

Bless Rian Johnson for founding one of the most fun, original and timely franchises of our day.

Apart from being a damn hoot, I just adore what Knives Out is saying about criminality and class. If the first film was all about old money and the paranoid intra-family inheritance battles that allow it to sustain itself; the second film is about new money: each of our suspects are "self-made" influencers. Of course, the irony is that they're not self-made at all, just capable self-mythologisers, ultimately puppeted by the mythologiser-in-chief, Edward Norton's deliciously smarmy take on a Jobs-Musk-Bankman-Fried-hybrid, Miles Bron.

Murder Mystery, as a genre, has always been most interested in the deaths of the mega-wealthy. Literary theorist Franco Moretti once did a fascinating exercise when he overlaid the crimes investigated by Sherlock Holmes over Charles Booth's real crime map of Victorian London, and found that they were exact opposites: the only crimes of fictional interest were the least common ones - the ones in rich areas:

[T]here is a deep symbolic logic behind those two Londons. Booth's criminal world is the nearly inevitable result of urban poverty: it is a visible, widespread reality, which has absolutely not mystery about it. For detective fiction, however, crime must be precisely an enigma: an unheard-of event, a 'case', an 'adventure'. And these things require a very different setting from the [poorer] East End: they need fancy hotels, mansions overlooking the park, great banks, diplomatic secrets...It's the old London of privilege, that we encounter in detective fiction: the same streets, the same houses and squares of silver-fork novels. (Moretti, Atlas of the European Novel: 1800-1900, 1997; emphasis mine)

What I so appreciate about Glass Onion is its point about how our legal system is utterly incapable of prosuecting the true crimes of the mega-rich. The individual murder our protagonists are investigating - Andi Brand's - is only a side-effect of a much bigger crime: pushing a dangerous untested fuel-source into the market before properly understanding its impacts. Both Daniel Craig's Benoit Blanc and Janelle Monáe's Helen Brand understand that the traditional justice system is useless in the face of corporate crimes of that scale (incapable even, of prosecuting someone rich enough to buy their way out of the crime of murder). The only alternative is to ruin their reputation; to literally blow shit up.

Sherlock Holmes was a private detective. He implies, multiple times, that he doesn't particularly care whether guilty people are punished - he's just aesthetically pleased by solving a mystery. Benoit Blanc, on the other hand, does care about justice - even if the only way to achieve it is through a little destruction. How magnificently prescient of Rian Johnson to have released a film about burning the Mona Lisa a month after real-life Just Stop Oil activists threw soup onto a Van Gogh painting!

Of course, exploding things is a deeply nihilistic solution, and in the real world I believe we have to find ways to reform corrupt systems. But hell, what a joyously angry, deliciously cathartic thing to see on film. More Knives Out movies, please!

Last thing, isn't it nuts how soon the Covid 19 lockdown sections have come to feel like a period piece? I was choking on my popcorn laughing at the perfectly-recalled Among Us Zoom parties and wildly different takes on mask etiquette.