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'Last Night in Soho' Review: Edgar Wright's charming misfire

@Russellisation
'Last Night in Soho' - Edgar Wright
3.7

With frenetic whizz, finessed creativity and a self-evident passion for the history of cinema, Edgar Wright has established himself as a pioneer of modern filmmaking. From the delights of horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead to the unique visual awe of comic-book movie, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Wright has little interest in settling for cinematic cliches, consistently looking for ways to innovate and inspire. It’s this dedication that has led the director to such industry prominence, often conferring with the likes of Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino about his latest cinematic endeavours. 

As the second feature film of Edgar Wright’s 2021 efforts, the psychological horror Last Night in Soho represents something quite different for the director, ditching his usual comedic streak for something far more straight-faced. Merging the frills and thrills of 1960s London and the modern-day equivalent, at the heart of Last Night in Soho is a love letter to the centre of the British capital’s entertainment district, even if this message gets lost in a fog of confused haunts. 

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Thomasin McKenzie plays Eloise, a fresher at a London fashion school, experiencing the bright lights of the city for the very first time since moving up from Cornwall. Hoping to follow in her late mother’s footsteps, Eloise initially impresses as a blossoming fashion designer before finding the pressures of city life too demanding, seeking a change in an old-fashioned apartment in the centre of Soho. Her existence here opens an ethereal gateway to the 1960s where she accesses the dazzling world of swing through the conduit of a young aspiring singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). 

Wonderfully reimagining the world of 1960s Soho, Edgar Wright creates an enjoyable illusory voyage into the past, with Soho’s neon lights, glimmering dresses and expertly designed sets suffusing a vivid sense of style and elegance. This dream world is inextricably linked to present-day Soho in which the nightclubs of the past have been boarded up or replaced by sleazy pubs void of the class of the past. 

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In this, Wright formulates a well-conceived statement on the ever-changing stasis of the entertainment industry, with the dusty remnants of a time-long-gone also serving as a timely reminder of attitudes that have been long since forgotten. Neither is this message overbearing, neatly referred to and suggested without overshadowing the film itself. 

It’s a shame then that whilst Last Night in Soho is an enjoyable romp, it fails to live up to the heights of its own impressive visual and thematic standards, falling back on cliché in its final act with a lethargic story that runs out of energy. Such should be an act of cinematic blasphemy when referring to the films of Edgar Wright which are so often injected with an established rhythmic pace and freneticism. Though there is a lack of flair in his latest film, feeling more like a lite version of the director’s usual water-tight productions. 

With help from the lead cast of Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith as sleazy ‘60s promoter Jack, the film is elevated into a pleasant, entertaining ride, even if the final product fails to reach the true heights of its potential. Still, Last Night in Soho oozes with charm and true passion for a time long-lost, evoking the hope and innocence of the 1960s whilst echoing the screams and horrors of the era in the modern day.

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