The last time I saw an Edgar Wright film was with freakin’ Baby Driver over FIVE YEARS AGO; that is way too long. So I had the obvious reasons to get excited for “Last Night In Soho”. Needless to say…..this is probably the first time I’ve been mildly inconvenienced by a project of his despite my strained level of enjoyment.
Anna Taylor Joy is a mysterious force of nature while Thomasin McKenzie displays the type of fearless, woman-gone-mad horror performance that we’ve grown accustomed to in established years. The rest of the cast is just as impactful in their performances…..even if their characters don’t have nearly as much depth as the main two.
Wright’s own retro cinematic sensibilities are highlighted at full display once more with eye popping visuals and luminous sets emitting out of a coruscating production design that oozes nostalgia thanks to resourceful in-camera effects and staging, Chung-hoon Chung’s euphoric cinematography supplies some of the most dazzling choreography and imagery in Wrights career and while the context can get a little fuzzy down the road, the pacing never drags on. Drastic shifts in tone were welcome for once, given the context of the story support how Soho’s glamour is matched only by its grunge, you got a killer needle-dropping soundtrack and from a storytelling perspective, that was almost my favorite part of the movie:
a hybrid mashup of horror and time travel that explores the darker side of 1960s London and questions stories that glamorize the era while also hinting about independence, exploitation and showcasing the dark underbelly of the supposed "good ole' days". In a day and age where nostalgia baiting and fetishization of the past is very common, it was nice to see another film show how the past wasn't so great after all. Again, nothing entirely new per se but sometimes the best kinds of horror films are simply etched in the fabrics of reality; Edgar Wright normally has a hold on for what he wants in his story and his focus on less laughs and more conventional ‘scares’ here has to be applauded, at the very least.
But my biggest gripe with this however is simply how it tries to be everything and only succeeds at….most of it. As a homage, a psychological thriller and a surprisingly competent time travel crime drama, I can pique my own interests there but the slasher aspect is only serviceable and the love story comes off a little superficial for my tastes, especially since Wrights thematic approach to feminism, zealotry and toxic men doesn’t lead to anything beyond what feels like a surface level understanding. The mystery is what really started to irk me because as over the top as the writing was, I was hoping in the end for that bit to make sense.
And it does…..but that is still the unfortunate fatal flaw.
Even with two plot twists thrown in, it becomes generally unengaging after a while, wearing itself thin and killing whatever shreds of momentum the film built up to that point going into the third act. By drastically moving away from the more reserved and subtle approach of the first two and even tripping over the finish line, it leaves Ellie’s story unfinished and every other character feeling like an extensive prop for her story and no one else’s; basically reducing the importance of the story’s narrative to build off the plot structure and not the other way around.
While mostly successful in mashing up genres to create moments of real cinematic lightning, Wright’s execution fails him this time with the film baring an uncanny resemblance to Reminiscence’s televisual structure in how it presented itself and how it wrapped things up. A pure style-over-substance spot-fest that, while not an horrendous experience, was nevertheless one that was let down by its final act.