Updated: Mar 3
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Anya Taylor-Joy stars as 1960s dazzling wannabe singer Sandie, and left, the reflection of Thomasin McKenzie, as time-hopping fashion student Eloise “Ellie” Turner.
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“LAST NIGHT IN SOHO”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2021; R for bloody violence, sexual content, language, brief drug material, and brief graphic nudity; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “On the Streets of Soho” featurette
ACCLAIMED British writer/director/producer Edgar Wright (“Baby Driver,” “Shaun of the Dead”) has whipped up a dazzling psychological thriller, surrounding a time-hopping, aspiring fashion designer Eloise “Ellie” Turner played by the extraordinary Thomasin McKenzie (“Leave No Trace,” “Jojo Rabbit”). “If I could live any place at any time, I’d live in London in the 1960s. It must have been the center of the universe!” Ellie says.
After high school, she decides to move from the countryside away from her worrisome grandmother (Rita Tushingham, herself a ‘60s icon) to the Soho section of London to study fashion, while listening to her favorite British ‘60s music, “A World Without Love,” a 1964 hit from Peter & Gordon written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, which goes perfect with her go-go vibe.
Ellie quickly finds herself out of place in the thrumming metropolis and escapes from her mean dorm roommate and friends. She ends up in an upstairs flat, rented from kindly landlady Ms. Collins, played by the late legend Diana Rigg (“The Avengers” TV series, “Game of Thrones”) in her final role. “Ellie has dreams and ambitions, but she’s still finding out who she is,” says co-screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns during one of five featurettes on the 4K disc, Blu-ray, and digital.
(1-3) Ellie decides to move from the countryside of Redruth, Cornwall, where she lived with her grandmother Margaret “Peggy” Turner (Rita Tushingham, herself a ‘60s icon), to study at the London College of Fashion. (4) She meets her mean dorm roommate, Jocasta (Synnøve Karlsen), and three other students.
Wright was pleased he cast McKenzie, “Because you get to go on the journey with her. And there’s something powerful casting someone who is the same age as the character,” he says. “It was a very visceral experience for her,” especially since the young actor is from New Zealand, making her first visit to London for the production. “She is incredibly naturalistic and able to feel the experience as strongly as she can, so she really has to put herself into that mindset,” the director says.
One night, Ellie closes her eyes, puts her sheets over her head, and mysteriously finds herself walking down a narrow alleyway emptying onto London’s Coventry Street in 1966. The night scene shimmers with bright lights and colors as a massive, two-story billboard and marque for the latest James Bond film “Thunderball” welcomes her. “My take on Ellie is that she’s full of a lot of passion and energy and excitement, but she has a very insecure side to her … she’s a bit nervous and unsure. And she’s got quite a dark side,” McKenzie says.
Every night she’s haunted by 1960s visions of Sandie, a gorgeous blonde, played by BAFTA Best Supporting Actress Anya Taylor-Joy. Are the visions only dreams or something deeper? Sandie falls for the dashing club promoter Jack (Matt Smith, the 11th ‘Doctor Who’), who promises her a singing gig at one of Soho’s hot spots.
Ellie continues having dreams of Sandie’s spiraling life of betrayal and violence, when Ellie asks her landlady if there had been a murder in her upstairs room. “This is London,” Ms. Collins says. “There’s been a murder in every room in every building on every corner of this city.” Visual trickery from Wright turns Ellie and Sandie into mirror-image sisters as they swirl through the ‘60s nightlife at the Café de Paris.
(1) Ellie quickly finds herself out of place in this thrumming metropolis. (2) She bumps into a gray-haired shadowy pub patron played by British legend Terence Stamp. (3&4) During a dorm party, a student grabs her headphones and makes fun of her ‘60s Brit-pop music. The next morning, she wakes up in the same room and finds herself late for class.
“Sandie is inspired by a lot of the actresses of the ‘60s, who when they come into a movie, they just own the screen,” Wright says. Taylor-Joy was the first actor he talked to about the project in 2015 – long before the first draft existed. She remembered it as a “neon-fueled nightmare.” And, he planned it to be dark, but juxtaposed with incredibly bright flashes of color.”
Initially, Wright arranged for Taylor-Joy to play Ellie, but as he and Wilson-Cairns started writing, the character of Sandie became much bigger. “It became clear to me that Anya should play that part,” Wright says. “She has this really timeless quality to her, that you think that she could be a movie star now or a movie star in the ‘60s, and in the ‘20s. She could have been a silent movie star.”
Another British legend, Terence Stamp (“Superman” “The Limey”), provides a poignant performance as a shadowy pub patron.
“Last Night in Solo” has been nominated for 10 British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards, including Best British Film and Supporting Actress for Taylor-Joy and a number of technical nods for Original Score, Cinematography, Costume Design, Editing, Makeup & Hair, Visual Effects and Sound.
(1) Ellie rents an upstairs flat from Ms. Collins to escape her roommate. A flashing red and blue neon light from a next-door French bistro bleeds into her bedroom. (3-5) She pulls the sheets over her head and listens to the 45 rpm of Cilla Black’s hit “You’re My World.” Then she finds herself transported to 1966 and discovers she and Sandie are mirror-image sisters as they swirl through the nightlife at the Café de Paris.
Five featurettes, “Meet Eloise,” “Dreaming of Sandie,” Smoke and Mirrors,” “On the Streets of Soho” and “Time Travelling,” provide cast and crew interviews, and behind the scene footage. Deleted scenes are provided and a commentary with Wright, editor Paul Machliss, and composer Steve Price, who wrote the film’s theme before the cameras even began rolling. It’s a process he borrowed from the great Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone and composer Ennio Morricone, who played the theme of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” for inspiration on the movie set of the 1966 spaghetti Western.
Shooting five weeks in Soho had its difficulties since “it’s a part of the city that never sleeps,” Wright says. Writers, artists, and filmmakers have been obsessed with the neighborhood over the years. “But I felt that it had been missing from the screen for many decades. Which was odd for me, because it’s what I think of as the center of London.” Wright and Wilson-Cairns walked the Soho streets during their writing for inspiration. The production was filmed before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Much of the production was captured on Panavision 35mm film cameras with anamorphic lens (2.39:1 aspect ratio). Some night scenes were created on ARRIRAW 3.4K digital, but sadly it was all mastered in 2K. The resolution between the 4K and 1080p is very similar, with the smallest uptick on the 4K and natural film grain is evident throughout.
The big difference is the HDR grading (HDR10 & Dolby Vision) with its expanded contrast levels – especially the controlled highlights which are blown out at times on the HD version. The 4K is slightly flatter with more mid-tone detail and shadows. The flesh tones are natural and less garish, especially during the 1960s scenes. And the fire scene gives so much more detail in the flames, with varying shades of orange and yellow.
(1&2) Writer/director/producer Edgar Wright spent five weeks filming in the Soho section of London, as Jack drives Sandie to an audition. (3&4) Sandie sings “Downtown” in acapella. (5) Ellie wakes up from another Sandie dream. (6) She decides to dye her hair blonde like Sandie’s.
The 4K and Blu-ray both include the active and enveloping eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack. From Price’s excellent score to the endless ‘60s Brit-pop tunes including “Wishin’ and Hopin’” by Dusty Springfield, “Starstruck” by the Kinks, “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” by The Searchers, “Downtown” by Petula Clark and Taylor-Joy’s soulful cover as Sandie, “Anyone Who Had a Heart” by Cilla Black, “Got my Mind Set on You” by James Ray, “(Love is Like A) Heat Wave” by The Who, “Puppet on a String” by Sandie Shaw and more.
The overall fidelity is excellent from the bass during a dorm party scene and present-day nightclub, and environmental sounds and music cues to the height speakers during the 1960s scenes.
On Feb. 8 we’ll see if “Last Night in Soho” receives any Academy Award nominations.
– Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) After her hair appointment Ellie is followed by the older gray-haired man. (2) Ms. Collins played by the late Diana Rigg. (3&4) Ellie’s next dream finds Sandie a dancer/singer at a Soho gentleman’s club.
(1) Ellie is shocked to find Sandie is more than a dancer/singer at the Gentleman’s club. (2) Ellie dances with fellow fashion student John (Michael Ajao) during a Halloween party. (3) Ellie’s visions are becoming much dark. (4-6) The lives of Ms. Collins, Ellie, and Sandie come to a terrifying conclusion.