Knives, Onions and Everything in Between
Nice guys always kill FIRST
Written by Andrea Brazis
***This article contains spoilers for both “Knives Out” and “Glass Onion” ***
I’ve seen dozens of mystery movies and shows, from your run-of-the-mill Scooby-Doo episodes to the Gen-Z favorite “Criminal Minds” to Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us” movies. While I love sitting down and watching Spencer Reid solve a crime of passion with clues that seemingly never lead to the right place, there’s so much more lurking in the mysterious world of cinema.
“Knives Out” is a breath of fresh air. It’s a honest to God good mystery movie: no over exaggerated edits, no over-the-counter corny lines. The aesthetic of the movie is nostalgic — the old-fashioned mansion with creaking boards and giant fireplace feels like a classic setting for a murder mystery. The premise is simple: son gets cut out of will, takes revenge on father by attempted murder (one of the most classic motives). But Rian Johnson takes it much further than this simplicity: he thickens the plot and creates notable motives for each character. More so, he allows an error of sympathy for audience members towards some of the suspects, such as Meg, who isn’t able to pay for college without Thrombey’s financial assistance, or Marta, the sweet nurse who is wrongfully pegged as the unintentional murderer.
This movie didn’t drag; every minute was a clue and every interaction was vital to the storyline. These clues were showcased in an indirect, yet somewhat noticeable way, allowing watchers to connect the knife-shaped dots. This didn’t feel long or overdrawn and the conclusion didn’t feel rushed. Although, more scenes of Chris Evans and his revolutionary cable-knit sweater would’ve been wonderful. “Knives Out” is more of a family-friendly mystery movie. Unlike “Get Out” or “Us,” there’s no deep psychological meaning to the madness; the answers are logical. There’s no excessive gore or plot elements to give kids nightmares — it’s a good old-fashioned mystery movie.
“Knives Out” is a breath of fresh air.
Critiques for “Knives Out,” are minimal. I felt that some of the acting by the family members was overdramatized, and of course, they had reason to be. However, I felt that the lines in the reading of the will were a bit forced, making them feel less genuine. Like any mystery movie, comprehension is far better on a second watch. But there’s something magical, something unreal about the first watch of this movie — seeing all the little pieces come together and sharing a collective “Ah!” moment with other viewers.
“Glass Onion”? More like “Bloomin’ Onion.” But seriously, the last shot of Helen Brand and the exploding glass onion behind her is a masterpiece. This movie is unexpected, with more comedic parts and up-to-date references; it’s catered towards a younger audience in comparison to “Knives Out.” From the get-go, the movie references the purgatory that was quarantine, throwing in Gen-Z references to “Among Us” and wearing masks when greeting strangers. This could’ve been really cheesy and poorly conveyed; however, I feel that this was presented in a simple way that also made audience members crack a smile.
The plot of “Glass Onion” appears to be much more complex than “Knives Out,” which makes it more interesting in some regards, but also leaves room for confusion by trying to shove too much information and too many details into a 2 hour and 19-minute movie. The first half of the movie, to someone who hasn’t watched it before, could be a bit confusing. A lot of information is thrown at the watcher with little context until later in the flashbacks, where the scheme is explained in detail. It took a thorough re-watch for me to grasp the concept of Andi and Miles’s company, and Alpha and Miles’s individual creation, “Klear.” However, watching so many more details come together to fit the perfectly-molded storyline was satisfying and impressive, to say the least.
Maybe I was more ignorant to this in the first movie (or maybe it wasn’t as noticeable) but I heard more profanity being used in “Glass Onion.” I think that the movie is more suggestive in the comments and inappropriate jokes. I feel that this movie is for more mature audiences who wouldn’t mind frequent yet tasteful adult humor. “Knives Out” is more conservative in regards to the direct dialogue and insinuations.
“Glass Onion '' brings a lot to the table, which also means there’s a lot to take in all at once.
While I still enjoyed “Glass Onion,” I have more fatal critiques for it than “Knives Out.” “Glass Onion '' brings a lot to the table, which also means there’s a lot to take in all at once. If I focused too long on Alpha or Klear, I became lost in the murder portion of it or missed subtle clues that the director planted. Compared to “Knives Out,” it was a bit more chaotic — between some awkward scene jumps and quick changes in dialogue, the film was a bit more difficult to follow.
Overall, I feel that “Knives Out” is the superior movie. While I adore “Glass Onion” and would encourage everyone to watch it at least once, it’s missing key elements that “Knives Out” brings to the table. “Glass Onion” is a little hard to follow in parts, pieces of the storyline aren’t fully explained, leaving room for different interpretations. “Knives Out” is a bit more to the point — every scene is detailed in a basic way that’s easy to follow. The ambiance is more old-fashioned, which caters to the more nostalgic viewers. This is a more “classic” whodunit story, while “Glass Onion” is modernized for the incoming generations, between the humor, the plot, the characters and the pop culture references to “Quiplash” from Jackbox Games or Twitch. “Knives Out,” dare I say, is less controversial than “Glass Onion”: less of the dialogue can be judged or interpreted incorrectly or offensively. In a way, I also found “Glass Onion” to sexualize some of the characters a bit more, which can bode well when done appropriately and tastefully in cinema, but can still make a movie controversial and easily criticizable by certain audiences.
But what makes these movies stand out from every other detective movie? What makes these any better than “Murder on the Orient Express” or “Death on the Nile”? These movies have one thing in common (besides Daniel Craig): they both retrace the storyline. Both movies give a more up-and-close view of the murder, allowing for varying perspectives and unveiling little Easter eggs. This is often referred to as an “analepsis,” which allows the watcher to gain information critical to the storyline. I’ve seen this tactic used in other movies before, but not to the extent that “Knives Out” and “Glass Onion” do, where the analepsis is 50% of the movie.