This article contains major spoilers for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.Themes of class were prominent in the story of Rian Johnson Knives out, which highlighted the corruption and greed of the wealthy Thrombey family. And in the film’s recently released sequel, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mysterythe same criticisms of the upper class are taken even further in a way that feels all too relevant to current events.
While the Thrombeys are inside Knives out was a classic example of old money, Glass onions instead focuses on new money — specifically tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), who feels very much like a certain infamous real-life CEO. In the process, the film’s social commentary proves to be just as biting as its predecessor’s. And while the film’s creators had no way of knowing what controversies would be in the news at the time of its release, Glass onions still feels like it came out at the best possible time.
The genius idiot
Before he’s even shown on screen, Miles Bron is established as the eccentric CEO of Alpha Industries, a massive technology company involved in everything from space travel to cars to cryptocurrency. Right off the bat, it’s hard not to draw comparisons between Miles and Elon Musk. Musk has been a divisive figure for years now — gaining a devoted following among some thanks to his public image as a cool, meme-loving innovator, while drawing heavy criticism for his anti-union practices and increasingly conservative political views , as well as the poor working conditions at the Tesla plants. Musk is a genius to some and a narcissist to others. Musk has only become even more controversial after his recent takeover of Twitter and all the drama that has followed since.
As for Miles Bron, it quickly becomes clear after his introduction that he’s not all he’s cracked up to be. He tries to appear charming and accessible to Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), but his absurdly lavish eye property – the titular Glass Onion – shows how vain and self-centered he really is. Miles presents himself as a bold, rebellious visionary, a “Disruptor” in his own words, despite being one of the most powerful figures in the very system he claims to oppose. However, it is eventually revealed that there are even more layers to Miles’ corruption.
At the film’s climax, Miles is revealed as the killer of Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe), despite being the most obvious suspect. Because as Blanc narrates in one of the film’s most entertaining moments, Miles himself is a kind of glass bulb – seemingly layered and complex, but actually transparent and hollow. Despite his public perception as a brilliant genius, Miles’ only real talent is promoting that very image of himself. He is not able to create anything on his own, and all his best ideas are stolen from other people. He stole Alpha from Andi, he stole Klear from Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.), and even his assassination attempt on Helen Brand (Monáe) was inspired by a direct remark from Blanc.
Not only is Miles Bron a talentless hack, he is also willing to lie, steal and even kill to protect his own status. He is so caught up in his own hype that he would sooner release a dangerous, unproven product than admit any kind of mistake on his part. It is easy to read Miles’ portrayal in the film as a direct attack on Elon Musk, especially when Musk has garnered even more criticism than usual in recent months. However, there is a bit more to the story than that, and director Rian Johnson himself has admitted as much.
Peeling back the layers
When asked in interviews about Elon Musk’s influence on Miles Bron, Johnson is quick to emphasize that Miles is not based on a single public figure. “I found that whenever I started thinking too specifically about a person, it became very uninteresting very quickly,” Johnson said in an interview with Yahoo entertainment. Rather, his intention with the film was “to explore the uniquely American thing of mistaking great wealth for great wisdom,” through the lens of Miles and his fellow Disruptors.
But of course, Johnson is also well aware of the serendipitous timing of releasing the film at a time when Musk has become more infamous than ever. “It’s very general about the kind of tech billionaires who went directly into it,” Johnson said in an interview with The cable. “But obviously it almost has a strange relevance at this very present moment[…] And it’s just kind of a horrible, horrible accident, you know?”
With this in mind, the true purpose of the film becomes clear. Instead of targeting a specific person, Glass onions is about the failings of society’s most powerful people in general. After all, look at the kind of people who are in Miles’ inner circle: politicians, fashion moguls and even Twitch streamers are among those who are hailed by the film. It’s a story that takes the type of people so often idolized in modern society and explores how fallible, selfish and corrupt they so often are. And in doing so, it raises the question of why these people are held in such high esteem — and perhaps even whether they should have so much power in the first place.
Indeed, the true “Disruptor” i Glass onions is not Miles’ Bron, but Helen – the ordinary woman determined to bring Miles to justice, even if it means burning down everything he’s built. And in a world where the most powerful people in society so often operate above the law, there is a palpable catharsis in seeing a man like Miles face consequences for his actions. It may be a fantasy, but it’s the kind of fantasy needed in times like these. And that, above all else, is why Glass onions feels like it came out at the perfect time. But of course the Twitter drama doesn’t hurt either.
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