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Film Review: Last Night in Soho

2 November 21 words: George White

With Last Night in Soho, Edgar Wright takes his first full swing at the horror genre. How did it go? Well... 

Director: Edgar Wright
Starring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith
Running time: 116 minutes

Think Edgar Wright and a few things spring to mind: creative visuals, heaps of style, and a sharp, witty script that throws up one satisfying surprise after another. Yet while Wright’s latest film, Last Night in Soho – co-written with 1917’s Krysty Wilson-Cairns – nails the first two entries on the list, it is surprisingly underwhelming on the final point. Saddled by a lack of subtlety, borderline cringe-worthy dialogue and storytelling decisions that often make little to no sense, a strong opening hour is ultimately derailed, with this cryptic horror descending into incomprehensible madness by the time the credits roll. 

The film follows Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), an aspiring fashion designer who travels to London for her studies and begins to see visions of what she believes to be the murder of a Sixties singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). As she tries to unravel this complicated mystery, these visions become something far more sinister, leaving Eloise in a race to save her own life. 

A lot has been made about the unpredictability and uniqueness of this film and, at times, it certainly justifies the hype. Through some intelligent camerawork, this is a time-jumping, reality-bending thriller that offers up memorable moments and stunning shots that do feel fresh and engaging. 

However, as Soho attempts to become bolder and shows a greater determination to try and throw the audience off the scent, it begins to lose momentum at a frustratingly breakneck pace. Wright and Wilson-Cairns attempt to deliver important messages in unconventional ways, but frankly baffling character decisions and unearned plot developments threaten to completely undermine these endeavours. By the final act, the film is so unsure as to where it wants to go and what it wants to say that it becomes difficult to remain interested, with certain scenes literally leaving you with your head in your hands. 

A lack of intricacy is a prominent issue throughout the movie, with certain developments proving far too convenient. Conversations are overheard at just the right time, characters happen to be where they need to be, when they need to be, and some lines of dialogue genuinely feel like they’ve been nabbed from a Nineties teen movie. The inclusion of a typical group of judgemental students is painfully well-worn, with classic scenes like the "let’s talk smack about the main character in the toilets while said main character is in the next stall" causing eye roll after eye roll.

This perhaps marks the first outright disappointment of Edgar Wright's impeccable career so far

These crimes against cinema are perhaps more terrifying than the deliberate attempts at scares. Sure, there is a constant sense of threat and uncertainty that does get under the skin, but once the film devolves into a full-blown horror, the shocks fail to hit home. Despite having a pretty hefty budget, elements of the film feel surprisingly B-movie-esque, with the use of CGI offering little to unnerve. 

Despite the weaknesses of the movie, though, the majority of the cast undoubtedly give it their all. McKenzie follows on from her remarkable turn in Jojo Rabbit with a layered and mature performance, stepping up to a lead role with relative ease – even if she does forget to maintain her Cornish accent from time to time. Taylor-Joy continues to prove herself as one of the finest actors around, developing a character that brilliantly blends vulnerability and resilience. And Michael Ajao offers some pleasant moments of comedic relief, as well as a reassuring presence when most needed, even if the strength of the character’s commitment to Eloise is bordering on implausible. 

Unfortunately, despite the hype surrounding Edgar Wright’s first narrative feature in four years, this perhaps marks the first outright disappointment of his impeccable career so far. A promising start eventually unwinds as the script’s boldness becomes its downfall, leading to a rather messy final forty minutes. It’s not necessarily a disaster – there is still plenty to appreciate – but it’s certainly not the groundbreaking contribution to cinema it threatened to be. In the end, you could say that Last Night is... alright.

Did you know? Thomasin McKenzie dropped out of Top Gun: Maverick (2022) to star in this movie.

Last Night in Soho is in cinemas now

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