As a high-concept fable about time and aging, Old shows early promise with a group of strangers stranded on a beach where the flow of time means that they will age a full lifetime in the span of just one day. Sadly the writing never comes close to a coherent or thoughtful exploration of these ideas and dialogue is painfully stilted. Instead the premise gets old fast, which would be impressive were it deliberate. Although Shyamalan continues to attract talented actors, there is no depth to characters who are mere cyphers (an actuary worried about future risk married to a museum curator interested in the past) or fodder for the plot, all ultimately hapless victims as the film leans into temporal body horror. Shyamalan remains a victim of early success as — though this is not a film that relies on a grand twist — he does try to cram in narrative complexity at the end, which does little more than highlight an intriguing bioethics angle that might have been more engaging if it were more than an afterthought. Old is a tedious way to lose two hours of your life but at least it is never scary enough to age you prematurely.
“This is London. Someone has died in every room in every building and on every street corner in the city.”
Edgar Wright’s London-based ghost story lavishly conjures Soho in the 1960s but serves as a deliberately stark warning against romanticising bygone eras, exposing coercive mistreatment of women beneath the glossy facade drenched in neon light. We see the entire film through the perspective of Eloise, a modern-day fashion student who experiences visions of the past through mirrors. These reflections provide the film’s best visual flourishes, achieved predominantly through practical sleight of hand and clever choreography (particularly a stunning dance sequence in an exquisite recreation of Café de Paris with repeated Texas Switches, a favourite of Wright). Eloise’s attempt to reinvent herself at university mirrors her visions of Sandie’s grasp at stardom in the 60s . This is communicated through sound design and colour as Eloise crosses to experience Sandie’s world, the coldly desaturated indifference of London suddenly giving way to the vibrant 1960s, with front audio bursting into Dolby Atmos surround. Anya Taylor-Joy is mesmerising, her singing voice adding to her talents. There is also something about former Doctor Who stars twisting their charm into something darker, Matt Smith’s manipulative Jack reminiscent of David Tennant’s Purple Man in Jessica Jones. The horror elements work more through atmosphere than jump scares (though there are some), coupled with Eloise’s concerns about her own mental state. Unfortunately, although the third act reveals are largley satisfying, Last Night in Soho becomes less than it could be when confined to the present day and more conventional horror visuals.
Disclosure: I know personally at least one person involved in the making of this film.
“You’re growing up too fast. Ten-year-olds shouldn’t be celebrating war and talking politics. You should be climbing trees and then falling out of those trees.”
It’s disappointing to have to call a satire of Nazism timely two decades into the twenty-first century, but such is the present state of the world. Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit is frequently funny in skewering inane propaganda-driven views of Jews and the Allied armies, though its satire is content to show up these ideas as ridiculous rather than delving much deeper. It is heartbreaking to see a child manipulated into such baseless hatred and the film’s dramatic side is far darker. These tonal shifts are often jarring, leaving the film a somewhat disjointed experience rather than feeling like a cohesive whole. The script often feels like one of Wes Anderson’s weaker projects but Waititi’s direction and his caricature of Hitler (as the the titular Jojo’s imaginary best friend) keep things energetic throughout. Ultimately, however, despite at least one dramatic punch, a weak resolution takes the sting out of the satire, leaving little to take away from the experience. Except that Nazism is ignorant and stupid. So that’s good.