City of Tiny Lights Review
Director: Pete Travis
Score: Ruth Barrett
The very lucid, Pete Travis, director of Vantage Point and the latest and visually stunning, Dredd, screenplays and directs the award winning author, Patrick Neate's multicultural London-based crime thriller, City of Tiny Lights. It's a classic detective story but set in modern London that deals with local corruption, social and religious fanaticism of today's society and some more personal matters for the film's detective.
Riz Ahmed takes the lead role as Private Investigator, Tommy Akhtar who is hired to find a missing person, expecting it to be run-of-the-mill job which quickly turns into a nightmare as he digs deeper and even unearths some secrets of his own. Ahmed fits the bill perfectly, portraying the rough yet ready P.I. swigging down double wild turkeys like a Bond to Martini's and smoking Bensons like they're about to be deemed illegal.
Travis certainly adds his usual visual flair, showing great use of lighting and shadows which glosses over the city. Considering myself a Londoner, I immediately grew a fondness for this film, as any film that showcases the city's vast beauty automatically earns my affection, even if it is more of the brutalist London we're so use to seeing on the big screen. Here's an interesting read on what inspired Travis when making this film courtesy of the BFI. However, some sequences didn't sit well with me, they did nothing but look like an attempt to be different or smart, but was actually quite off-putting.
What does really suit the film is Ruth Barrett's score, that really helps set the mood and atmosphere of the film. Especially tracks like "Christmas", "Tiny Lights" and "Tommy's Theme". It's quite an ambient score but always has something looming, almost being a great allegory for London and the story itself. It's certainly made my best scores of 2017 playlist.
The story is convoluted with Akhtar's latest assignment and his personal history that appears to come back to haunt him. Though it can be quite emotional as we learn more about our protagonist, and it unfortunately pushes aside the core story as they try to run parallel to each other. It starts to feel like it's getting somewhere to then be hit by a googly which lessens the intrigue and disconnects you from certain characters. You could almost think the story stutters throughout. Having not read the book, I'm not sure how much is taken verbatim but the script is good,
There's a strong supporting cast with some great characters, but I don't think they're afforded enough screen time to really grow, James Floyd's Lovely character as an example. Roshan Seth as Tommy's cricket mad dad is exceptionally good. I feel they do portray each character brilliantly, giving an honest representation of the diverse London we live in today.
It's a stylish yet ambitious British thriller with some strong elements that sets it above average, but sadly lacks the overall impact and intrigue. However, would welcome another assignment from Akhtar, being a great character with some distance to go.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 8
Job Description: 6
The Extra Bonus Point: 0
Would I buy the Blu-ray?: If on special.