A young girl fantasises about the '60s and dreams of a girl whose life takes a sinister turn, one that consumes her and leads her towards her own dark destiny. Digital editor Dan Jensen shares his thoughts on the new noir thriller from celebrated filmmaker, Edgar Wright.
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO is far more than just a movie – it’s an experience. Co-written and directed by Edgar Wright, who is known mostly for comedic action and horror films such as Shaun of the Dead and Baby Driver, this film sees him grow as a filmmaker to create one of the best films of 2021.
Thomasin McKenzie stars as Eloise, a bright fashion student with a ‘60s obsession who moves into an apartment in London to escape living with her fellow students with whom she shares no common ground. Soon after, she begins to dream of another life, that of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) – a glamourous singer living in the ‘60s who seems to be everything Ellie desires. That is until Sandie’s story takes a dark turn and the lines between reality and the dream world become blurred, with Sandie’s ghosts coming back to haunt Ellie.
Last Night in Soho has something for everyone to appreciate. It’s a murder mystery, it’s a psychological horror film, it’s a dream-like fantasy. It’s the kind of film whose story could have easily become quite convoluted and self-absorbed, but never once falls into that trap. For the entire two-hour run time, the audience is transported into a mesmerising tale filled with dazzling imagery, jaw-dropping visual effects (many of which were done with camera trickery) and a cracking ‘60s soundtrack to accompany it.
It's hard to pick where to start in praising Last Night in Soho. Edgar Wright has created his best work to date, from a catalogue of critically-acclaimed films. The film borrows respectfully from movies of the past including Italian giallo horror films and ‘60s classics such as Rosemary’s Baby, while delivering something that still feels fresh and unique. Gone are Wright’s trademark fast-cut transition moments as seen in every film he’s made — this time around he wants to show the world that he’s capable of so much more.
McKenzie and Taylor-Joy, sharing the lead roles, positively shine. Both are accomplished stars in their own right, but it’s obvious they were both loving the material given and their energy bursts through the screen. Soho is also notably the final role for Diana Rigg, who is given a substantial role and steals every scene she’s in. The cast also boasts Matt Smith and Terence Stamp, both giving equally stellar performances under Wright’s brilliant direction.
Last Night in Soho also benefits from production design that is bound for at least an Oscar nomination, if not a win. The ‘60s era is recreated to perfection, but aside from the costumes, hairstyles, vehicles and locations lending a great deal to the vibe, the colour palette and lighting add an entire layer to the visuals making it one of the most stunning films released this year. Fans of films such as the original Suspiria will find a lot to appreciate in the bold neon imagery that gives the story a spellbinding allure.
The visual effects in the film are the type that leaves one wondering how various shots were achieved and scouring YouTube for clues immediately after seeing it. Aside from some incredible CG work that accentuates the horror element of the story, there are many scenes where practical effects are used to absolute perfection and add to Soho’s wonderous charm.
And fans of ‘60s music are going to adore the song list assembled for the film’s soundtrack. Music plays a big part in the film (a characteristic continuing on from Wright’s previous work) and aside from the song choices, the score by Steven Price is hypnotic, beautiful and haunting.
While Last Night in Soho does introduce a theme of mental illness into the story, it’s never as prominent as in films such as The Babadook or The Shining and one doesn’t even need to consider it to enjoy the film. It can be taken for what it is — a neo-noir thriller featuring some of the best performances and visuals you'll see on a screen this year. More importantly, it's a film that will move you. But whether or not you go looking into it deeper, Soho is an unmissable cinema experience and one that will linger with you for a long time after the credits have rolled.
Last Night in Soho opens in cinemas across Australia tomorrow, 18 November.
You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @danjensenmovies or check out his YouTube channel, Movie Talk with Dan Jensen.
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