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Last Night in Soho (2021) Review

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Last Night in Soho

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, sexual violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise “Ellie” Turner
Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie
Matt Smith as Jack
Michael Ajao as John
Terence Stamp as Lindsay
Diana Rigg as Alexandra Collins
Director: Edgar Wright

An aspiring fashion designer (Thomasin McKenzie) is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s, where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer (Anya Taylor-Joy). However, the glamour is not all it appears to be, and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something far darker.

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Last Night in Soho was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. Along with a cast that includes Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, it’s Edgar Wright’s latest film. While I’m not a massive fan of his non-Cornetto trilogy movies, the premise sounded quite intriguing, and I was interested to see him take on a full-on horror movie. I heard some mixed things from people about the movie before going into it, which was surprising considering most people seem to love his films. While I do like the movie, I agree with most of the criticisms its been receiving.

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The first half actually started off quite well for me, despite some issues. You do notice a distinct difference from Wright’s other movies, definitely less quippy and witty, and with less humour. I don’t have a problem with this though, this is a different sort of Wright movie. Not only that, but the attempts of humour in the film don’t hit at all so decreasing the amount of humour was only for the film’s benefit. Wright is more subdued here, I might be in a minority here but I appreciate him trying something different. When it gets to lead character Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) beginning to when visions of the 1960s and seeing Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), that’s where it really picks up. This is where the film is at its peak, it was intriguing and held my attention. Something I do like is that its going back to a setting with nostalgia (particularly a setting that Eloise has nostalgia for), only to show the seedy and dark side of it. It is a cautionary tale about the dangerous of romanticising the past and I do like that idea (even though the execution is not the best).

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Then the second half happens. The plot stops being interesting or intriguing as Eloise goes through a descent into madness as she sees visions and ghosts, and we see less of the 60s setting. I think its at this point where I realised that I was more interested in the 60s plotline, and Eloise’s story wasn’t that interesting on its own. It definitely tries to have twists and turns but by this point the twists are very easy to predict. Last Night in Soho is a horror movie and its this second half where you really feel it. I’m not inherently against horror movies not scaring me, since only a few really scare me. However the horror falls shockingly flat, even Wright delivered better results with Shaun of the Dead. I distinctly remember the point that the film started to go downhill for the moment it introduces jumpscares and ghosts that haunt Eloise. Wright must think they are scary because he places these ghosts throughout this second half, and none of them are scary in the slightest. Maybe if it was intended to be camp then they would’ve worked, but Wright is aiming for genuine horror, and as a result it just comes across as really silly (in a bad way). While jumpscares can be used effectively, all of them feel completely clunky here. Even the gore and violence (and this is Wright’s most violent film) doesn’t really have any impact despite it intending to be shocking. The closest the film gets to being scary is a scene halfway through the movie where Eloise/Sandie is running through a club, and it does well at being effectively unsettling and creepy. Outside of that, none of the horror hits.

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As the movie enters into its second half, it touches on some really heavy material which I won’t mention by name for the sake of spoilers. It’s certainly ambitious to tackle difficult subject matter like those as long as enough depth is given to it, but the handling felt rather careless and glib here, particuarly with some of the horror sequences. Initially I was wondering whether I was just thinking too deep into it, until I reached the third act. Speaking of the third act, it’s been said by others that this is where it’ll make or break the film for many. I wouldn’t say it breaks the movie for me as I still like it overall. I will say that it certainly breaks the chance of me looking back at the plot in a positive way. It reveals its predicted twist and then rushes its way into a climax. While I predicted the twist earlier on, what followed the twist was something I didn’t predict because it was quite possibly the worst direction you could take the story in after everything that came before. The situation in the climax already feels contrived, forced and avoidable. However, even the simplistic message gets completely confused with the direction it takes in the third act, and just feels misguided at best, tone deaf at worst. Even the ending made me confused as to what kind of movie it was supposed to be, and not in a good way.

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This has to be some of the worst character work that Edgar Wright has done. The characters are 2 dimensional and feel like stock roles to fill rather than believable people. The innocent girl, the creepy old man, the mean girls, etc. So it is a credit to the cast that they pulled off good performances playing them. Thomasin McKenzie plays the lead character Eloise and she’s fantastic in this part. While I was not that invested in Eloise’s journey in the second half, McKenzie’s performance kept me on board with the character and with what she was doing. Anya Taylor-Joy is also excellent, embodying her character very well. In a way you could say that she’s underutilised given that she’s only seen during the visions and time travel scenes. However she is great and her presence is felt throughout. Other supporting actors are great too, especially Matt Smith, Terence Stamp, and Diana Rigg in her final performance.

LAST NIGHT IN SOHO

Edgar Wright directs and you do feel it, though refreshingly he does pull back on some of his filmmaking trademarks. For example the editing is still sharp but isn’t as snappy like his previous movies, and I appreciate him being more restrained with it. It is visually stunning to watch with Chung-hoon Chung’s cinematography, I particularly liked the use of colour. It is far Edgar Wright’s best looking movie. The recreation of the 60s time period is solid too, especially with the production designs, costumes and more. I like how they show the time travel, sometimes having Eloise and Sandie in the same room with Eloise being an observer, sometimes Eloise seeing Sandie in her reflection in the mirror. The soundtrack is great as expected given that this is an Edgar Wright movie, the score from Steven Price is also great and fits the tone of the film really well.

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I do like Last Night in Soho but it’s by far Edgar Wright’s messiest and most frustrating movie. It’s a shame because the first half showed itself to be a film with great potential, but the second half squandered all of that by the end. Even outside of the plot, there’s still a lot of issues. The characters are rather flat and one note, and the attempts at horror don’t succeed at all. However, I still like the film generally. The first half is good especially the glimpses into the 60s, the visuals and soundtrack are nice, and the actors are great in their parts, especially Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy. For what it’s worth, I do think it’s the best of Edgar Wright’s non-Cornetto movies, though I’m not in love with Baby Driver or Scott Pilgrim as much as other people. It’s not really a movie I want to revisit anytime soon, if only because I feel like my thoughts on it will sour even further. With all that being said, I do think it’s at least worth watching.

Official Secrets (2019) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Keira Knightley as Katharine Gun
Matt Smith as Martin Bright
Matthew Goode as Peter Beaumont
Rhys Ifans as Ed Vulliamy
Adam Bakri as Yasar Gun
Indira Varma as Shami Chakrabarti
Ralph Fiennes as Ben Emmerson
Director: Gavin Hood

One day in 2003, in the lead up to the Iraq War, British intelligence specialist Katharine Gun (Keira Knightley) receives a memo from the NSA with a shocking directive: the United States is enlisting Britain’s help in collecting compromising information on U.N. Security Council members to blackmail them into voting in favor of an invasion of Iraq. Unable to stand by and watch the world be rushed into war, Gun makes the gut-wrenching decision to defy her government and leak the memo to the press.

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Although there wasn’t a lot of widespread attention given towards Official Secrets, I had been hearing a small amount of positive buzz for it. The premise certainly sounded intriguing, as was the cast assembled for it, so I was interested in checking it out for sure. Having finally seen it, I can confirm that Official Secrets is really good, a tightly directed political thriller, and I don’t know why it’s not receiving much more attention. Worth watching for sure.

Admittedly, Official Secrets starts off a little slow to begin with. It even takes a while for the information to leak and then be published in the story. From that point onwards however, the movie really picked up from being pretty good, to really good. It shows the perspectives of Katharine Gun, who leaked the information, as well as the journalists who break the news. As someone who never knew about this story, it was very interesting and most of all informative watching all of it unfold on screen. It is maddening watching this at times as you see what happened, as it should be given that this really happened in real life, and the story is told as honestly as possible. It’s quite easy for big budget political thrillers about real life stories like this to make up things about what happened just for dramatic purposes. However from what I can tell, it stays as true to the real life story as it possibly can. In the second half it becomes really tense, but it never overplays it, it feels very grounded in reality. Now it is definitely more informative than entertaining, while it’s not one of the most gruelling watches or anything, it’s not exactly fun to watch. But as that type of political thriller, it really succeeds well.

The talented cast all do a great job and are among the highlights of Official Secrets. The main lead is that of Keira Knightley, who gives one of her best performances of her career as Katharine Gun, she’s very believable in her role. However it’s not just her who works, the movie also has Matt Smith and Matthew Goode as journalists, Ralph Fiennes as Katharine’s new lawyer, Adam Bakri as Katharine’s husband, and others like Rhys Ifans and Conleth Hall. All of them play their roles believably, and they really added to the movie.

Gavin Hood directs this very well, it’s a great looking movie and it’s been put together solidly. As I previously said, the scenes of tension are quite effective, without being too overbearing and overblown. It’s all directed at the right level required for the story really, keeping your interest and attention without trying to make it flashy or pretty for the audience.

Official Secrets is one of the most overlooked movies of the year, and it really should be seen by more people. It’s directed and written well, the cast are great, particularly Keira Knightley, and it’s an important story that needs to be known and seen. Watch it for the performances at the very least. Definitely don’t miss it, and see it as soon as you can.

 

Terminator Genisys (2015) Review

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator in TERMINATOR GENISYS from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

Terminator Genisys
Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence and Offensive Language
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Guardian/Terminator
Jason Clarke as John Connor
Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor
Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese
J.K. Simmons Detective O’Brien
Dayo Okeniyi as Danny Dyson
Matt Smith as Alex
Courtney B. Vance as Miles Dyson
Lee Byung-hun as T-1000
Director: Alan Taylor

When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance against Skynet, sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect his mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke), from a Terminator assassin, an unexpected turn of events creates an altered timeline. Instead of a scared waitress, Sarah is a skilled fighter and has a Terminator guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger) by her side. Faced with unlikely allies and dangerous new enemies, Reese sets out on an unexpected new mission: reset the future.

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I love the first two Terminator films, they are classics in their own right and have made a big impact on cinema, so naturally I was hyped for the fifth instalment to the franchise. I was initially worried when I heard that a lot of people really didn’t like this film, it currently holds a 27% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite the hate, I still decided to watch it and I surprisingly enjoyed it. It’s not without its faults (mostly with the plot) but I still managed to enjoy it nonetheless. It’s nowhere near the level of the first two terminators but it’s still better than 3 and 4.

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Before I talk about the film, I should mention first not to watch the trailers. The trailers show way too much and might actually affect your viewing. I will say though that the plot twist in the trailer I actually liked, even though there are some things that didn’t really make sense. The fault in the film is mostly due to its story and script. The problem with time travel movies is that it can get very convoluted and confusing. Genysis is trying to do an X-Men Days of Future Past but here there are some things that don’t get addressed. The film does have some continuity issues and plot holes, for example the T-1000 from Terminator 2 isn’t addressed. I didn’t notice a lot of problems on my viewing but I know that there’s a lot there that I haven’t noticed yet.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger slips effortlessly back into the role of the Terminator after many years, he was for me the best part of the movie. He wasn’t acting as just Schwarzenegger in another action film, he was the Terminator. Most people really didn’t like the rest of the cast but I found most of them to be fine. I bought Emilia Clarke as a younger Sarah Connor and the connection between her and the Terminator I thought really worked. I also thought that Jason Clarke was decent as John Connor. One casting however that I didn’t really like was Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. He really didn’t seem like Michael Biehn in the original Terminator and didn’t honestly convey enough emotions. I think Jai Courtney is good in certain roles but Kyle Reese wasn’t the best choice for him. I really liked Matt Smith’s role but I would’ve liked it if the film had more of him in it.

Emilia Clarke plays Sarah Connor in TERMINATOR GENISYS from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

The action were pretty good though not as memorable as the scenes in the first two films. The CGI for the most part was pretty good but like Jurassic World, it hasn’t gotten that much better than the original. Occasionally there was an explosion or two which really did look CGI and a little fake. The soundtrack I thought was also decent and did add more to the action scenes.

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Terminator Genisys is at times a little messy with its plot but I still managed to be entertained by what I saw. I can’t say that you will definitely enjoy this film but I think it’s a good idea to check it out and see for yourself. James Cameron gets the rights for the franchise back in 3 years and even though I liked this film, I do think that he should direct another Terminator film in between his many planned Avatar sequels.