Edgar Wright has proved once again that his directorial talents do not play within the constraints of a singular genre. From his 2004 zombie movie Shaun of the Dead to his 2007 fast-paced action Baby Driver, Wright now brings a whole new feat to his resumé with his psychological thriller Last Night in Soho.
The story follows young and aspiring artist Ellie as she heads off to the eclectic city of London in the hopes of one day becoming a fashion designer. Played by Thomasin McKenzie, the soft spoken yet determined Ellie at times awkwardly navigates this intimidating new setting.
What starts off as the classic story of a small girl in a big city suddenly takes a dark turn once she starts experiencing visions from the past. As she settles to sleep in her shabby apartment, Ellie is propelled into the lavish era of the 60s where she witnesses the mesmerizing Sandy, a confident and elegant woman with big dreams of becoming a singer. Anya Taylor-Joy is captivating in this role, as her character turns the heads of powerful men in her passing in addition to wide-eyed Ellie.
The line between reality and Ellie’s lucid dreams blur into one, as she lives her fabulous fantasy through this woman’s body. However, this perfect new world turns sour when these visions start to appear while she is awake. Ellie is unable to escape the past as she helplessly watches Sandy’s own fantasy become a nightmare.
It’s clear to say that constantly witnessing a series of violent visions from the past adds a little stress to Ellie’s life. This film dives through the glamourous mask of Soho to reveal the true horrors that lie within. The complicated strings attached to Ellie’s strange capabilities show the powerful quickly become powerless. With the use of vibrant lighting, the pulses of red and blue light up the screen, merging the two worlds together. The lighting and the music go hand in hand working as one to create confusion as to what is reality and what is not.
In classic Edgar Wright fashion, the soundtrack drives this film. It is incredibly immersive, as the beats of the music dictate the action. The nostalgia of the 60s inspires this movie through all its frames, with intricate costumes and lavish set design. Setting Ellie in this dazzling too-good-to-be-true environment is awe-inspiring.
A few jump scares elevate the stakes; however, the fear factor is almost presented too many times. What is supposed to be hidden is in plain sight. For example, in Spielberg’s 1975 Jaws, the shark is barely shown in its totality which is what gives it so much power. Last Night in Soho should have done something similar, but instead it comes across as underwhelming instead of frightening. There is simply no room for imagination which does not particularly work with the thriller genre.
Though this could be considered a slow burn, rest assured, when it picks up, it is hard to look away since everything hits an impressive climax. In a time where too many movies have clear cut heroes and villains, Edgar Wright and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns change this narrative for the better. There is no black and white answer to the questions Last Night In Soho raises, and this exact ambiguity is what makes the film so entertaining.