In Darkness

From the title alone, you wouldn’t be remiss in thinking In Darkness to be a generic, perfunctory run-through of market-tested chills, thrills, and twists. The word, “darkness,” seems to elicit just the right amount of morbid curiosity from a potential audience, without being too provocative and scaring them off.  Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t go out of its way to disprove these superficial observations and, instead, cements them into reality.

Natalie Dormer, who is also a co-writer and producer, plays Sofia, a blind musician who has memorized every step of her daily commute to the point where she could probably walk it backwards on a tightrope. Her life is generally uneventful, except for her upstairs neighbor, played by Emily Ratajkowski. Some neighbors play loud music, some can’t seem to afford their own sugar and some lead you into life-or-death, geopolitical conspiracies. It’s the latter for Sofia, because, in a surge of irony, she ends up being the only witness to a significant murder. In an instant, she simultaneously becomes a suspect of the police and a target of organized crime.  

“…she simultaneously becomes a suspect of the police and a target of organized crime.”

Keeping with the theme, the film is drenched in shadows. The director, Anthony Byrne, has a good eye for what looks good on-screen and there are even a few well-staged, cogently photographed action sequences that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Mission: Impossible film. The era of Hollywood’s “great faces” may be over, but this film has its fair share. There’s the pudgy cop with friendly lines across his face (Neil Maskell), the femme fatale with a thousand-knife stare (Joely Richardson) and the red-faced father figure whose every word is tinged with self-loathing (James Cosmo).

The film’s limp comes from its screenplay, the reach of which exceeds its grasp. It begins somewhat character focused, but quickly devolves into a checklist of plot points. The characters become pawns to be moved around at the writers’ will, at which point they lose all human interest. This might be forgivable if the plot was particularly challenging, but it revels in the comfortable clichés of its genre, without any variation or style of its own. There’s a specific twist where the movie clearly sacrifices credibility for surprise, as it’s an extraneous move, with no clear purpose other than to simulate motion when the film is really standing still.

“…characters become pawns to be moved around at the writers’ will..”

That said, In Darkness is certainly watchable and, as dull as the proceedings might be, checks many of the boxes that one looks for when trying to ignore turbulence on an airplane. It’s fast-paced, good-looking and Dormer has the ability and presence to carry a movie. If you’re not completely paying attention, these three qualities might fool you into thinking the film knows what it’s doing. If you’re planning on watching the movie on ground-level with all your senses intact, maybe whip out a crossword puzzle or buff up on your harmonica skills.

In Darkness (2018) Directed by Anthony Byrne. Written by Anthony Byrne and Natalie Dormer. Starring Natalie Dormer, Ed Skrein, Emily Ratajkowski, Neil Maskell, Jan Bijvoet, James Cosmo, Joely Richardson, and Amber Anderson.

2.5 out of 5

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