Writer and director Anthony Byrne’s first feature film is a noble attempt. The filmmaker is primarily known for his TV work, directing episodes of Peaky Blinders and Ripper Street but Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) lends a hand to co-write, produce and star in In Darkness; a project that took about nine years to get made.
Sofia (Dormer) is a blind pianist who goes about her day-to-day life working on film scores and getting coffee at a local café. The role was written with the intention of giving it away to another actress, before Dormer did a small TV show. Sofia’s life is turned upside down when her upstairs neighbour (Emily Ratajkowski) – the daughter of a rich warlord with a part in the Bosnian war – has a fall sending Sofia on a mission to reveal secrets about her past. She crosses paths with gangs, a thug full of regret (Ed Skrein) and an evil lady staging a power grab.
The role provides a huge challenge for Natalie Dormer but she pulls it off in a believable fashion, successfully carrying the story and does a good job with some bad dialogue. Dormer really is a bright spark in a sea of bad accents from the eccentric Russian billionaires and thugs and she is given the most to do. Side characters like Ed Skrein only exist to further her plot and have no background or any sense of depth, which is fine as it is very much her story. Nevertheless, wasting the talents of actors like Skrein is sad to see.
However, the twists seem to be endless yet are hardly ever earned; and worst of all they were all quite easy to see coming. It is an issue that plagues the film as they do come thick and fast. It failed to ever fully engage me and by the end of the movie, it was gone.
The intention was to replicate an older generation of movies. However, you can inspiration from auteurs like Hitchcock and Polanski, but that doesn’t mean you will recreate some of the brilliant thrillers that they put out in their prime. This is what In Darkness is trying so hard to be; it is a Hitchcockian thriller but with a twist on the format. The “Hitchcock Blonde” takes on the role of featured adventurer and person caught amid trouble. That is not even where the ideas of Hitchcock ends, it takes a note out of Rear Window, albeit more of a “thin walls” approach. There are visual nods to Psycho and there are also obvious tracks in the score that harken back to that of the Master of Suspense’s films.
It never realises its potential and always feels as though it is chasing the classical thriller style without ever quite getting there. Dormer carries the movie, but that is not enough to save it from a terrible fate. It is reminiscent of later, more divisive Hitchcock; that is to say there is a good idea that is executed and written poorly.
In Darkness comes to select UK cinemas today (6th July) and digital platforms on 9th July.