If there is only one thing we know about Edgar Wright, it’s his passion for playing with the concept of genres in his movies. His movies are never defined by certain genres—instead, they borrow tropes from different genres. “Shaun of the Dead,” arguably the best of his famous Cornetto Trilogy, was a hilarious horror movie that acted like a romance at times, and “Baby Driver” was a musical disguised as a crime movie. His latest movie “Last Night in Soho” isn’t any different. It’s a brilliant mix of thriller, fantasy and drama that perfectly reflects Wright’s unlimited creativity.
Before getting into the review, I should say I’m a big fan of Edgar Wright. He’s not one of my favorite directors, but I certainly believe that he is one of the few modern auteurs with a clearly distinguishable style. With quick action montages, several pubs as settings and energetic camerawork, “Last Night in Soho” features all of Wright’s trademarks.
“Last Night in Soho” tells the story of Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), an aspiring fashion designer obsessed with the 1960s, who moves to London to attend London College of Fashion. The initial premise alone presents so many conflicts, such as Eloise having a hard time adapting to her dashing college life filled with alcohol and clubbing, that I wouldn’t object to spending the whole movie in the world that Wright builds in the first 20 minutes. The movie, however, takes a turn as Eloise mysteriously gains access to the London of the 1960s in her sleep.
The twist takes the teenage drama tone of the movie and successfully blends it with the thriller genre. At first, we are introduced to Sandie (Anya Taylor Joy), an aspiring singer that serves as Eloise’s proxy in the ’60s. Despite being more confident in her talents, Sandie struggles just like Eloise to find her place in the glamorous Soho life. Wright effectively establishes the connection between the two by using creative camerawork with mirrors. After a series of encounters, Sandie starts working as a prostitute, and Eloise witnesses some brutal scenes which I will not spoil. The world building is still very impressive with its many musical and cinematic references, even though the present day world seemed more solid.
Soon enough, the (literal) ghosts from the past start to haunt Eloise in her present day life, thus adding a whole new layer to her struggle trying to fit in. These moments feel truly Wrightian with many dynamically edited action sequences blending the past and present together. This portion of the movie is the most engaging and enjoyable one, with Thomasin McKenzie’s strong lead performance and Edgar Wright unleashing his full madness.
Then comes the ending. The ending has caused a huge debate among critics, and I’ll admit that until the ending, I thought ‘‘Last Night in Soho’’ was the best movie of the year. There is a major twist that I won’t reveal, but it pushes you to reevaluate what the movie has been telling you. It is not necessarily bad, it just feels like one of the mediocre ideas Edgar Wright came up with while brainstorming for possible endings and ended up using it for no good reason. The ending feels somehow disconnected from the rest of the movie tonally and thematically.
That being said, the movie definitely has something to say about prostitution and gender politics in general, and the ending enriches that subtext. Maybe that’s the problem. Edgar Wright isn’t known for the social messages in his movies and, judging the first two acts of ‘‘Last Night in Soho,’’ he didn’t seem like he was intending to break that trend. The ending certainly looks as chaotic as you would expect from Wright aesthetically, but thematically it is really far from what we’re used to seeing from him in the past.
Overall, ‘‘Last Night in Soho’’ is definitely one of the noteworthy movies of the year, but with its ending, it falls short of being the best. The movie will certainly please Wright’s fans as a lot of his trademarks are present in there, but it has the potential to disappoint with an ending that feels like it came out of a different writer.