Review: ‘Last Night in Soho’ first-rate thriller
“Last Night in Soho” is a sexy murder mystery that unfolds through flashbacks set in the 1960s in the Soho area of London. The British psychological horror film by Edgar Wright has received critical praise for its stylish direction and boasts a killer soundtrack, too, from the era.
BAXTER — The Swinging ‘60s are back ... but it can be murder on a young woman.
"Last Night in Soho" is a sexy murder mystery directed by Edgar Wright that switches back and forth between the present and London's swinging ‘60s style scene.
The film opens with a young, sheltered woman named Eloise Turner, who hails from the English countryside, getting accepted to the University of the Arts London to study fashion design.
The aspiring fashion designer is played by 21-year-old New Zealand actress Thomasin McKenzie, a fresh-faced rising star who gained prominence in “Leave No Trace,” a 2018 drama.
Turner is enamored with the big city at first. The hustle and bustle of England’s capital are almost intoxicating with its cosmopolitan vibe and undeniable energy, a city teeming with life.
The college student, however, harbors a secret upon arriving in the Soho district. After renting a room from Alexandra Collins, an elderly woman played by the late Diana Rigg, Turner begins having dreams of an aspiring young singer named Sandie, played by Anya Taylor-Joy.
Turner begins to have increasingly disturbing visions of Sandie and her controlling manager-boyfriend Jack, played by English actor Matt Smith, who Americans may remember as the titular time traveler in the long-running British sci-fi TV series revival “Doctor Who.”
Turner becomes obsessed with the time and place she envisions — the ‘60s — and begins to embody Sandie in style and demeanor, serving to further ostracize her from her peers.
“If I can live anyplace, at any time, I’d live here in London, in the ‘60s,” Turner confesses to Collins, her landlady, which was Rigg’s final movie role before the 82-year-old’s death last year.
Older audiences may remember Rigg as Emma Peel in the 1960s British TV series “The Avengers;” as James Bond’s wife in the 1969 movie sequel “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service;” or as Olenna Tyrell in the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” which ended in 2017.
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Collins attempts to set some ground rules for her new, young tenant — including no boys after 8 o’clock, for example — which Turner has no problem with, for the most part, preferring to live vicariously through Sandie, until Turner realizes how controlling, domineering Jack can be.
“I’ve got this kind of gift. I can see people, places and things others can’t,” Turner tells John, another aspiring fashion designer in her class played by Michael Ajao.
“I’ve got this kind of gift. I can see people, places and things others can’t.”
— Eloise "Ellie" Turner
The neon-drenched lights hide the seedy underbelly of London, as Turner soon discovers in her dreams and real life. And she comes to believe that Sandie met an untimely and violent death.
“The guy that killed her is still out there. I have to stop him,” Turner says to John, her potential love interest in the Hitchcock-like movie.
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There’s a creepy old man played by 83-year-old English actor Terence Stamp, who seemingly is everywhere Turner goes and who appears to take an unusual interest in her.
Or is Turner going mad? Is she having a nervous breakdown trying to acclimate to her new surroundings? Or is she haunted by Sandie’s ghost? Moviegoers will have to decide.
Taylor-Joy plays Sandie with equal parts chutzpah and vulnerability as she’s preyed upon by older men with only one thing on their minds in the R-rated, two-hour film.
The young actress starred in the horror films “The Witch” and “Split,” which were released in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and "The Queen's Gambit," a Netflix miniseries released in 2020.
“Last Night in Soho” effortlessly switches between time and place, and Turner’s and Sandie’s points of view, in an intoxicating mixture on the big screen that comes across as a feverish dream.
Wright co-wrote the screenplay for “Last Night in Soho.” The English film director also directed the 2004 zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead,” co-wrote the screenplay for “Ant-Man” in 2015, and directed the action movie “Baby Driver,” which was released in 2017.
“Last Night in Soho” currently holds a 75% approval rating among critics and an impressive 90% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.
The RottenTomatoes.com audience consensus reads: “‘Last Night in Soho’ has visual thrills, a great soundtrack, and a plot that keeps you guessing — in other words, everything you want from an Edgar Wright movie.”
FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum .