In his new feature film, In Darkness, prolific TV director Anthony Byrne (Peaky Blinders, Ripper Street) offers a stylishly shot female led spy thriller, which despite presenting an ambitious premise, fails to completely convince due its deeply convoluted and cliché-ridden narrative. Co-written by Byrne and real life partner Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones), In Darkness stars Dormer as a blind pianist who finds herself embroiled in a case of international espionage in a film which tries way too hard to be Atomic Blonde, only to end up looking more like a BBC Sunday evening drama.
Talented pianist Sofia (Dormer) has been blind since birth, but this has not stopped her from leading a fairly independent lifestyle and having a hugely successful music career. Despite keeping herself to herself for the most part, Sofia soon finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation when her rich and deeply troubled neighbour Veronique (Emily Ratajkowski) is found dead having either jumped or been pushed from her apartment window onto the street.
When it transpires that Veronique’s father is none other than suspected Bosnian war criminal Radic (Jan Bijvoet), a man who is somehow connected to Sofia’s own past, the pianist is interrogated by relentless police detective Mills (Neil Maskell) who seems convinced that she knows way more than she is letting on to him. Amongst the chaos, Sofia teams up with one of Radic’s former henchmen (Ed Skrein), a handsome yet dangerous hired gun, whom she is convinced was behind Veronique’s violent death.
Playing both on the vulnerability and strength of its female protagonist, it’s clear that Dormer and Byrne have attempted to create an interesting juxtaposition between physical weakness and mental strength with varying degrees of success. Having said that, the film ultimately lacks the bravery, and more importantly, the means to be anything but a failed Atomic Blonde wannabe. Dormer, whose delivery is deliberately stunted and reserved, puts in a passable turn as Sophia, but even she isn’t unable to save this film from being another summer flop heading straight to home entertainment.
Overall, the film’s downfall resides in its lack of plausible plot and its inability to flow naturally, which in turn reduces the whole thing into a barely coherent mess. While both writers do their best to inject some suspense into its hugely predictable plot, the pair is ultimately let down by their extensive use of hackneyed thriller tropes which in the end betray their inexperience.