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How ‘Glass Onion’ Editor Bob Ducsay Placed Clues in Plain Sight So Audience “Didn’t Feel Cheated”



In crafting Rian Johnson’s whodunit, editor Bob Ducsay took a bold approach to this intricate story, placing key information in plain sight. To be sure, just watch the Netflix movie a second or third time and see how many clues were right there all along (such as a nod to one character’s true identity and the source of a crucial cocktail). The meticulously crafted story follows a group of self-proclaimed disrupters who are invited to a weekend on the private island of their wealthy friend Miles (Edward Norton). Daniel Craig reprises his Knives Out character, detective Benoit Blanc, who is also at the island getaway when a murder takes place on the first night.

“It was important to us to make sure that the audience didn’t feel cheated,” Ducsay explains, noting that they decided to be “as honest as we could be with the audience. We wanted to leave as many things in plain sight as possible without tipping our hand too much. And that really is a tremendous challenge. You really have to understand where people are [in the audience] are looking [and] what they are thinking about. And if you know these things or if you have a really good idea of ​​these things, it becomes easier to understand just what you can give away and what you have to withhold. We started getting bolder as we went on, because we were getting away with a lot of things. And when I say ‘getting away,’ it’s not trying to dupe the audience — it’s just putting the information out there and having a good idea that they can’t see it.”

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

In the film’s opening sequence, T’Challa/Black Panther dies of an illness, and the story becomes that of his grieving sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright). “It was a very emotional journey for us,” says Michael P. Shawver, who edited the movie with Kelley Dixon and Jennifer Lame. “If we got emotional, then we knew that it was working.” Dixon admits that the film also had to delicately address star Chadwick Boseman’s death. “The movie let us have a moment in sadness and grief, along with the fictional world.”

That’s evident from the start. “Marvel has a pretty uniform thing where you have an opening [sequence], and then the Marvel logo comes in and the movie starts,” says Shawver. “Since we have this Marvel logo with Chadwick, we faded from Shuri crying to pictures of T’Challa and Chadwick to keep you in that emotional place, blurring the lines that we were walking between real life and filmmaking.”

They also relied on sound in the opening. Shawver notes that the initial intent was to include audio clips of world leaders talking about the loss of T’Challa, but found this “a little too busy.” Instead, they took a cue from the scene at the riverbank when Ramonda (Angela Bassett) says “she heard T’Challa in the breeze and felt him in the wind. If you listen to it, there’s wind and there’s a breeze, and it sort of sets his presence up. Then we had that wind come in [again at the end] when Shuri lets go. We actually see the clips of T’Challa at the very end when she’s at the fire and the fire goes away, the ocean goes away — and it’s that wind.”

The Banshees of Inisherin

The Banshees of Inisherin

Courtesy of Jonathan Hession/Searchlight Pictures

Set on a fictional island in Ireland, Martin McDonagh’s character-driven fable tells of what happens when Colm (Brendan Gleeson) ends his friendship with Pádraic (Colin Farrell). For Oscar winner Mikkel EG Nielsen (Sound of Metal), this delicate edit involved finding simplicity in the scenes and a balance between its narrative tones. “The more simple you get the story, the more layered [the characters] can become,” the Danish editor says. “What was interesting [was to] find that natural balance of comedy and drama where you can tonally shift, even within the scenes. Martin’s scripts are so rich. There are plenty of these moments within the scenes. Then it’s about finding the balance and when it’s too much and when to hold back. [At times] we almost force you to laugh, and then it becomes like you almost want to eat your own laugh.”

Take, for example, a pivotal scene towards the film’s end when Pádraic goes to Colm’s house to confront his former friend. “It really goes from anger to funny moments to hurtful to funny or hopeful again,” Nielsen explains. “He enters the room with aggression, and it almost becomes that battle of laughter and funny. And then it completely changes into this sadness of the story between what Colm actually says to him.

“We just hold on Pádraic’s face for a very long time, actually almost in silence. And then little by little he opens up and he’s like, ‘So, do you want to go to the pub?’ You just understand how far these two characters are from each other.”

McDonagh’s longtime editor, Oscar-nominated Jon Gregory, was slated to cut the movie before he died in 2021. He’s remembered in the film’s end credits. “I really wanted to honor Jon, and my hope would be that he would be proud of how it turned out. … He really had a sensibility for character and to find the truth in the characters,” Nielsen says, adding that he studied Gregory’s work in film school. “He was a great inspiration and a very fine person.”

This story first appeared in a Jan. stand-alone issue of The News84Media magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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