Edgar Wright is a talented writer/director with an impressive resume, beginning with the break-out hit Shaun of the Dead (2004) and a string of hits that followed.
They include: Hot Fuzz (2007), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), The World’s End (2013), Baby Driver (2017) and his recent documentary The Sparks Brothers (2021).
His latest film, Last Night in Soho, has been generating a lot of buzz during its long, COVID-19 delayed release.
It co-stars Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise and Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie. It marks the final film performances of James Bond actresses Diana Rigg (as Ms. Collins) and Margaret Nolan (as a barmaid).
The movie is dedicated to Diana Rigg.
The movie trailers offered a glimpse into the storyline that included the idea of time travel from the present back to the swinging London scene of the mid-1960s. The time trip is via Eloise’s dreams in which she finds herself in the bustling night life of London past, evidenced by a large movie marquee featuring Sean Connery in Thunderball, which was released in 1965.
Edgar Wright has an affinity for the Bond Series, having cast some former Bond talent like Timothy Dalton in Hot Fuzz (2007) and Pierce Brosnan in The World’s End (2013) along with Rosamund Pike.
The trailers showed aspiring fashion designer Eloise bouncing through the epicenter of the fashion world in the mid-Sixties in a world either imagined or real.
It’s a colorful, intoxicating vibe. But we see her discovery of another mysterious young woman who possesses some connection to Eloise. They seem to be mirror images of each other (quite literally), somehow connected and intertwined. And we see flashes of scenes that reflect a dark, sinister element of Last Night in Soho possibly involving murder.
The trailer is effective. The hook is in. We seem to be in for an imaginative, time-jumping psycho-thriller ripe with retro music, retro fashion and retro pop culture from a fabled chapter of modern history. With some current of sexuality and suspense tossed in for good measure.
To its credit, Last Night in Soho delivers on all this. But that is only part of the story, which veers off in an entirely other direction that would constitute a major spoiler if mentioned.
It can be said that it is as intriguing and powerful as the setup. And it’s handled with the kind of finesse associated with directors like Roman Polanski or Stanley Kubrick.
Suffice it to say that Eloise’s dreams begin as an incredible fantasy wonderland for a would-be fashion designer with a love for 1960s fashion. Night after night, she excitedly returns to this dreamscape where she spots and follows Sandie, an aspiring singer seeking fame as a night club performer.
It’s exhilarating at first. But then the ugly side of the show business world begins to seep in when her slimy boyfriend/manager turns out to be opportunistic pimp and she finds herself becoming sexually victimized in the process.
Visually the connection and blending of these two women is a brilliant piece of filmmaking. It involves intricate staging, choreography and camera work, and the clever use of mirrors and reflections.
They stare at each other, registering each other’s head turns, facial expressions and hand gestures in perfect synchronization. The technique has been used in the past, but mostly for comedic effect, such as the classic routine done by Groucho and Harpo Marx in Duck Soup (1933).
Lucille Ball perfectly recreated it in her television show many years later in a 1955 I Love Lucy episode--with Harpo Marx.
The precision of it in Last Night in Soho is show stopping. It is intricate, complicated and flawless.
A testament to Edgar Wright’s creativity and imagination. And the acting chops of the movie’s co-stars.
As with Wright’s earlier movies, Last Night in Soho is brimming with energy and pace. And overflowing with ideas, perhaps a little too many. And that might be the movie’s only flaw—an attempt to do a little too much, particularly in the final reel. But that’s a minor criticism.
To its credit, the plot has several major twists that work very effectively. You really never see them coming.
But genre-jumping and clever staging aside, what Last Night in Soho has going for it, more than anything else is the formidable talent of its two co-stars. They are two of the most talent actresses of our time and they are at the top of their game here.
In the grand tradition of silent movies, the camera often focuses on their faces and eyes and lets them emote the way the pioneering movie stars did. Conveying emotions through subtle expressions.
There is a lot to like about Last Night in Soho. It’s entertaining despite the gradual descent into darkness. Wright makes sure you’re along for the ride—start to finish.
The one close-up that caught my attention was the one of the Coke can that is a device used to bring two of the characters together. It works. But it suspiciously looks like another blatant instance of shameless product placement.
Maybe it’s just me. But I could almost hear the jingle lyric about Coke creating a world of perfect harmony echoing in my brain.
I’m guessing that whatever they paid to have their Coke can to appear in this film will turn out to be a wise investment. Last Night in Soho will be around for a long time.
Last Night in Soho is in theaters now.
Photo Credits: Greg Williams / © 2021 Greg Williams, Parisa Taghizadeh / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC