The Game of Thrones cast have done a successful job of taking over cinema in recent years. The likes of Star Wars, Marvel, X-Men, DC, and Fast & Furious are stacked with the show’s alumni. Hell, even the Angry Birds Movie managed to squeeze in Peter Dinklage.
Natalie Dormer - whose Margery Tyrell was last seen having an unfortunate encounter with several hundred barrels of Wildfire - has been less prolific than some. Supporting roles in the last couple of Hunger Games movies aside, she’s continued to concentrate on smaller projects.
In Darkness is one of the primary reasons for this. A passion project for the actress, she wrote the movie alongside her partner (and director) Anthony Bryne and the pair have spent years developing it.
One side effect of actors writing their own scripts: they tend to write themselves good parts, and Dormer’s role Sofia is a gift for an actor: she’s blind, she’s a pianist, she’s got a troubled past and lots of unpleasant things happen to her. It’s the kind of role that has ‘awards bait’ written all over it. Or at least, it would in a better film.
That’s not to say In Darkness is a bad film. It’s isn’t, it’s just not a great one.
It starts out promisingly enough. Sofia’s a London-based musician, making her living performing soundtracks for lurid horror movies. One night, her neighbour Veronique (supermodel Emily Ratajkowski) falls to her death from the apartment upstairs, and may or may not have been killed by the mysterious Marc (Ed Skrein - another Thrones alumni) and his shady sister Alex (Joley Richardson). As the only potential witness, Sofia’s a risk to the couple.
It turns out that Veronique was the daughter of a Serbian war criminal (Jan Bijvoet), who’s controversially being given asylum in the UK, and her death may be linked to her father.
It’s a fun Hitchcockian premise (there’s even a completely pointless MacGuffin thrown in for good measure) with potential to be a good thriller. However, around the halfway mark, there’s a neat twist around Sofia’s character that sends it off in another direction. On the plus side, this twist sees the all-too-brief introduction of James Cosmo (who played Jeor Mormont in, yes, Game of Thrones); on the negative, it sends the film on a less confident path and one that’s not entirely successful.
Without spoiling too much, it’s safe to say Sofia’s not quite the innocent victim she originally appears, and that the Serbian connection is important. It’s a potentially interesting direction, leading to some very dark, possibly questionable places. It has gratuitous violence and nudity aplenty, but the plot becomes increasingly muddled, and a final twist that seems almost perfunctory, undermining much of what happens previously.
That said, Dormer’s impressive, London looks gorgeous, and Ratajkowski’s accent has to be heard to believed. In Darkness is an interesting if overly-ambitious film, and one that shows potential for the team behind it. There are a lot of great moments here, unfortunately, they just don’t mesh into a cohesive whole.
IN DARKNESS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ANTHONY BYRNE / STARRING: NATALIE DORMER, ED SKREIN, EMILY RATAJKOWSKI, JOELY RICHARDSON, JAN BIJVOET, NEIL MASKELL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW