The third feature film of writer-director Robert Eggers isn’t a horror film much like The Witch or The Lighthouse were, but the way in which Eggers brings you into his worlds whether it be through the usage of old age English or the elaborate sets – when considering the historical settings of his films, is nothing short of impressive. It was easy enough to see that from The Lighthouse onward, Eggers certainly would have found himself growing to become more ambitious as a filmmaker and it’s perhaps best reflected by what you’re seeing in The Northman, which may just as well be his most visually stunning film to date. Yet to Eggers, it’s not simply about mere aesthetic, it’s all about transporting the audience back through time, which I believe he succeeds at beautifully in here.
Not many filmmakers are as eager to show their own love of film through their own work like Edgar Wright can be. In Last Night in Soho, he moves away from comedy completely to make a horror film, yet also an obvious love letter to a city he’s stated that he had fallen in love with over the years. With that in mind, you can only expect that Last Night in Soho would be bound to become maybe Edgar Wright’s most ambitious feature to date, though the result isn’t always successful. Despite this, there’s still a lot worth loving about what Edgar Wright brings to the table in this journey back through London in the 1960’s.
A fitting note for the film to start can be found in Thomasin Mckenzie’s Eloise Turner dancing to Peter and Gordon’s “A World Without Love.” Her character is an ambitious fashion student, moving to London to pursue her studies, but in her new home she finds herself able to see a vision of London from the 1960’s, where she embodies a new persona. This new persona is none other than Anya Taylor-Joy’s Sandy, an aspiring singer, whom Eloise idolizes – and forms the basis of her designs. To Eloise, the 1960’s was an era she evidently obsesses over, as shown from the film’s soundtrack, but the more she sees from Sandy’s perspective the dream she once thought of only reveals a terrifying history.
From looking at a trailer for Last Night in Soho, it’d be easy enough to assume that Edgar Wright would be getting his influence from the giallo films of Dario Argento and the like, but instead what I saw was a portrait of London owing more to Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (both of which are among Edgar Wright’s favourite films). While Wright certainly is a filmmaker who knows how to make the most out of his influences, the core of his own works is one that seems somewhat lacking. Nonetheless, together with the work of Chung-hoon Chung (a regular cinematographer of South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook), what’s brought out from Last Night in Soho is among the most beautiful that an Edgar Wright film has looked.
There’s a lot that could be done with a premise of this sort, where an aspiring fashion designer travels back in time to see an era where she got her inspiration for what it really is. The horrifying reality of her own dreams is what in turn makes for an interesting turn for Edgar Wright in the long run, but with how Wright delivers on these scares, it leaves his message fumbling onward. As far as Wright’s films have gone, this might be the most he’s ever been able to embrace the gore but there’s only so much to go when talking about what Wright brings out in that regard. For as extreme as he can get with the infliction of violence and its cyclical and traumatic effect upon future generations, its message only finds itself muddled – both in its final moments and the framing of the film as a love letter to London in the 1960’s.
Edgar Wright has never been one to let down with the erratic nature of how his films are put together, although there came a point in Last Night in Soho where I feel like the film would have benefited from having that same energy felt in his Cornetto films. When watching Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead and the like, the core of those films feels so clear in how they are willing to engage with a familiar text yet felt subversive enough in a way that could only be attributed to Wright. But Last Night in Soho lacks that same punch. I say this in the sense that what the film turns into is nothing more than a generic ghost story about a cycle of violence that has targeted women, and exploited them, but to talk about how these moments are framed seems to leave behind an icky aftertaste – especially when talking how it all pays off in its twist ending. The images repeat, continuously torturing its lead character, but they leave little of substance.
I don’t wish to dwell so heavily on the negatives, though, because you’re bound to have fun with watching an Edgar Wright movie in some capacity. Wright brings out great work from both Thomasin Mckenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. But it’s worth noting that in their final performances, the late Margaret Nolan and Diana Rigg deliver with what little they have to show in here. But for as stacked as this cast was, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Matt Smith and Terence Stamp in their just as impactful roles. If anything, what you’re seeing out of them can be enough to leave you thrown off for the many surprises that come along the way. Wright brings the most out of his astoundingly stacked cast, and they all deliver.
It should not be any surprise that Last Night in Soho may turn out polarizing at the time of its wide release. For all the beautiful moments that Edgar Wright dedicates into creating this loving tribute to the city he loves, the message he delivers is one that feels quite messy. Yet maybe that was the goal, because it does its job at putting his viewers in an emotionally difficult spot, which is fitting when you consider Wright’s approach to its gender politics. Wright’s craft is as vibrant as it’s ever been since his collaborations with Simon Pegg, but perhaps his ideas don’t blend well with that aesthetic. I’m interested to see what comes in the near future for Edgar Wright with genre fare, even if my own reservations ultimately keep me from believing this is completely within the right step.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Focus Features.
Directed by Edgar Wright Screenplay by Edgar Wright, Krysty Wilson-Cairns Produced by Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Edgar Wright Starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith, Michael Ajao, Terence Stamp, Margaret Nolan, Diana Rigg Release Date: October 29, 2021 Running Time: 116 minutes
M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass is a film that seems to feel like in its own sort of league from the many other superhero films that also come out over the years, and that’s one among a few things that I find to be most welcoming about it. Nearly twenty years after the release of Unbreakable came out and offered a refreshing perspective on the superhero genre, with its deconstruction of the general structure, Shyamalan’s many ideas continued flowing with the potential of reaching a greater stature. When Split came out in 2017, there was that reminder Shyamalan has yet to lose his touch – because of the bridge presented between the two films. So with bringing both films together in Glass, one would only be left wondering how much further can we bring these ideas to come together in order to create a different sort of superhero film by bridging the gaps between both films. For a while, I’ve been wondering about how exactly everything would be culminating in the end, and though I didn’t quite get the answers that I was hoping for, there’s still a lot to be admired about what how the threads come together in Glass.
There was a time I remember when Ridley Scott had managed to create one of the most unsettling and thus one of the greatest horror films ever made by playing upon the fear of the unknown with the original Alien film. I’m not even sure if his son, Luke Scott, had gotten a grasp on what it was that made Alien a genre defining work just as it did, because there’s a lot here that almost rings from the beats that made Alien as effective as it was; only numbed down as a result of its attempts to reach out at pseudo-philosophy almost as if it were aping on Alex Garland’s Ex Machina from a year prior. It’s almost like a diet mix of both Alien and Ex Machina in the very worst sense possible, because there’s no thrill to be found within the action they present nor is there anything insightful to come about: Morgan is just a film that lies dead in the water all around.
M. Night Shyamalan is a fascinating name even if his films may be a failure in your eyes. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of some of his most notable works (and that includes The Sixth Sense) but something about his films has always drawn me towards them even if I’m not a fan of the final product. In terms of his most recent work, The Visit showed he was regaining a sense of his old glory through a bit of self-awareness and while I was not a fan of the film in itself, it showed potential for something more. If Split were an unleashing of what potential did The Visit show, then it can only go ahead to convince me I’m looking forward to Shyamalan’s next product.
Robert Eggers’s debut The Witch is a movie that works so perfectly yet I still struggle trying to grasp onto why it’s so loved. My theater experience watching The Witch was never the most pleasant and unfortunately on the spot I could not gather my thoughts properly, but upon a revisit I find myself all the more conflicted because what I remember having worked so well for me that one time never seemed to latch on. All I know for a fact is that there is another crowd of moviegoers who will certainly like, or even love The Witch given as it feels like a rather refreshing entry for the horror genre considering where it lies in recent years, and I won’t deny its good qualities. I’m not one of those people, and that’s what pains me because there’s so much to The Witch that I know should work for me. Continue reading →
You must be logged in to post a comment.