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TIFF Review: City of Tiny Lights

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city of tiny lights 2

Dealing with the secrets of others is what private detective Tommy Akhtar does for living but when hired to find a missing prostitute he is forced to confront his own troubled past.

A montage takes the viewer inside the city of London and introduces Tommy Akhtar who roams the streets of his childhood.  Narration reveals that he is a private detective hired to uncover and bury secrets which leads to him getting hired by a prostitute to uncover the whereabouts of her roommate who has vanished.  A graveyard encounter reveals a tragic conclusion to a mysterious incident that haunts Akhtar.  The past event hinted at through flashbacks becomes entwined with the present day investigation.

The dark underbelly of London is emphasized by the graininess of the imagery that is filled with neon lights and shadows.  Riz Ahmed has a brooding presence that conveys a protagonist who is weighted down by his own personal demons.  Lots of cigarettes are smoked and whiskey is the beverage of choice for the troubled Londoner.  He is man of no disillusions as indicated in his narration which serves to put situations in context rather than be a running commentary.

A couple of blatant mistakes run contrary to the street smarts persona of Akhtar.  The crosscutting between past and present storylines is disorienting at times as the colour palette and settings remain the same though different actors are utilized to emphasize the age difference.  The sound design provides ambience rather than blaring audio cues which is a nice change.  Casual remarks do have eventual payoffs; however, a particular fateful decision seems to be brushed aside in the end.  The crime noir tale makes the most of its urban setting but in end it comes across as an unfinished drink.

2.5-out-of-5

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Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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