Plot: What’s it about?
I’m going to go on the assumption that anyone reading this review has seen at least one Edgar Wright film. If not, please stop reading now. Go out and rent Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End and maybe even Baby Driver for good measure. Then come back and finish this review. Back? Ok, good. While none of the aforementioned films are necessarily “required” viewing, I feel it best to have at least some antecedent as to Wright and his movies. He’s got a quirky sense of humor and tends to tell his tales with in a frenzied way. But it works. I’d not heard much of Last Night in Soho prior to requesting it from Universal, but it was another victim of the global pandemic that was delayed for nearly two years before finally getting a theatrical release in 2021. Starring two up-and-coming actresses in Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, we find they both manage to carry the picture well, albeit from two different points of view.
Eloise or “Ellie” (Thomasin McKenzie) has had some problems in her life. Her mother committed suicide when she was younger and she tends to see her reflection in mirrors. This doesn’t deter her, however, from packing up her belongings where she’s attending fashion school in London. Finding her new roommate (Synnove Karlsen) “less than desirable”, she quickly relocates to the top floor of an old house owned by Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg). The set up seems ideal. But something strange starts to happen. Ellie is magically transported back to the 1960’s London, a time she happens to be obsessed with. She sees herself as Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer who falls under the spell of her sleazy manager, Jack (Matt Smith). What initially seems like a fairy tale to Ellie quickly turns into a nightmare when things start affecting her during waking hours. What’s a girl to do?
There’s a bit more to the story, but to tell much more would ruin it for the viewer and I don’t want to do that. While watching this I was reminded of my second favorite Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris. In that, Owen Wilson’s character manages to seemingly travel back in time only to emerge back in the present. Granted, it’s not as dark as this one, but the same caveats apply. A good majority of the fun while watching this was that it’s unpredictable. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, it throws a curve ball. It’s things like this that make watching it so enjoyable. Wright managed to get a top notch cast as well with final a tour-de-force final performance from the legendary Diana Rigg. Add Terrance Stamp in the mix and it makes for on hell of a ride. And it’s worth it.
Video: How’s it look?
The film has a very unique look to it and, come to think of it, it actually has several different looks to it. It begins in the countryside, bright and cheery, moving into London things get a bit darker and as things progress we find shades of red and black everywhere. It’s a bit difficult to translate into words, but this one runs the gamut when it comes to how it’s shown on screen. The 2.39:1 HEVC 4K image is never compromised in the least. I found no evidence of artifacting or anything that might deter from an otherwise good-looking picture. As the film descends into “madness” the images are darker, though thanks to the HDR it’s never an issue. Wright admitted that he used two types of lenses, an anamorphic for the “flashback” scenes and a spherical one for the modern segments. It’s an unusual choice, but one that seems to fit within the confines of the movie. Regardless, it left this reviewer impressed. You will be as well.
Audio: How’s it sound?
I watched this late at night while my wife was upstairs asleep. I mention that because I had the remote in my hand and, at several points during the film, had to toggle the sound up and down. There are scenes in which the dialogue is hardly audible and others where I looked up at the ceiling wondering if my wife was going to say “could you turn it down, please?” Nevertheless, I don’t fault the Dolby Atmos mix for the inconsistencies, rather it’s a very well-defined mix with a suitable amount of ambiance that fit with the tone of the movie. Vocals are crisp and clear, though I have to admit that some of the English accents are a bit hard to follow sometimes. Aside from that, I found no room for complaints.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Meet Eloise – An in-depth look at the character of Eloise and the challenges that star Thomasin McKenzie faced while bringing her to life.
- Dreaming of Sandie – A closer look at the characters of Sandie and Jack and why Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith were the perfect actors to embody the essence of the time period.
- Smoke and Mirrors – The cast and crew break down how lighting, makeup, special effects, and creative camerawork came together to create a collision between the present day and 1960’s time periods.
- On the Streets of Soho – The cast and crew discuss the importance of shooting on location in Soho and the complexity of transforming the city streets back in time.
- Time Traveling – A look into how the music, costume design, and production design of the film work together to immerse the audience into the world of 1960’s Soho.
- Deleted Scenes
- Animatics – Four key scenes are shown in a very raw form, followed by their completed look in the film.
- First Dream
- Shadow Men
- Final Confrontation
- Extras – A quartet of short segments that show some of the different technical “challenges” the cast and crew went through to ensure the movie kept us on edge.
- Hair and Makeup Tests
- Lighting and VFX Tests
- Wide Angle Witness Cam
- Acton Town Hall Steadicam Rehearsal
- Music Video – “Downtown” by Anya Taylor-Joy
- Audio Commentary – Director and Co-Writer Edgar Wright, Editor Paul Machliss and Composer Steve Price.
- Audio Commentary – Director and Co-Writer Edgar Wright and Co-Writer Kristy Wilson-Cairns.
The Bottom Line
Edgar Wright has a very particular style that appeals to most fans of film. And he’s garnered enough writing and directing credits that one is bound to be up your alley. Last Night in Soho was a bit of an eye opener for me in the sense that I had no idea what to expect. It could have gone in several different directions. And that’s what made it fun to watch. Universal’s 4K disc both looks and sounds amazing and it’s stuffed with enough supplemental material to easily warrant a purchase.