There’s no denying that Director Pete Travis’ latest British crime thriller is dripping in style. The film is absolutely gorgeous; its scenes splashed with vibrant, neon colours as it paints a brutal picture of the multicultural London metropolis. Despite a strong first hour, the latter half of the film loses focus before wrapping things up for a pace-less climax that lacks urgency and was a little too obvious to figure out.
The story starts simple enough, private investigator Tommy Ahktar (Riz Ahmed) is approached by Melody (Cush Jumbo) who’s roommate Natalya has gone missing and Tommy is tasked with trying to find her. Of course, it was never going to be as simple as that and he quickly finds there’s more than meets the eye as the case quickly spirals out of control. Along with the missing persons case, Tommy is forced to confront his past as Emma (Billie Piper) re-enters his life and brings up memories of their troubled past together. Told through a series of flashbacks, the pair contemplate whether they will be able to be together after the events that unfold in their past.
For the most part, ‘City Of Tiny Lights’ is a decent film. It manages to sustain a level of intrigue throughout whilst showing the authentic, gritty underground of London. The dialogue is good too, perhaps a little too good at times – for those not British they might find it difficult to keep up with all the regional slang. There’s a lot of “inits” and “you get me?” thrown in. It does feel like it over-reaches at times though and the final third of the film feels particularly unfocused.
Speaking of unfocused, the film has a tendency to flex its artistic skill a little too much at times. Whilst effective in portraying the hedonistic neon that blankets the city at night, the unfocused blur effect quickly becomes tedious after the third or fourth time. There’s a particular scene in the film that should be rife with tension and quicken the methodically slow pace but instead, the blurry slow motion effect actually detracted from the scene and made it difficult to work out what was happening.
Overall though, ‘City Of Tiny Lights’ is a pretty good thriller. Its certainly not the best film this year and it does have its fair share of issues. The pacing is a little slow at times and for those not British, the film is so wrapped up in its own regional dialect and multicultural politics that it could be difficult to follow. Having said that, the film is dripping in style and it has the potential to shine bright but its issues hold it back from being a great film.