If you aren’t a Riz Ahmed fan already (WHY aren’t you by the way? but more on that later) you will be by the time you walk out because Riz is the brightest thing about the otherwise slow crime thriller set in London.
The story revolves around ace private detective, Tommy Akhtar – an obedient and caring son to his ailing father – who gets himself embroiled into a case that requires him to investigate the circumstances surrounding a missing prostitute.
The director, Pete Travis, whose previous works include, Vantage Point, has tried his hands at this noir piece of cinema that succeeds in showing London, in all its multicultural, multiracial glory. This is the London that is rarely shown in mainstream cinema. It is gritty and grimy and yet it is warm and interesting. There are dark alleys and neon signs and a living, breathing city.
The premise of the film has everything going for itself, on paper at least. We have the ghosts of the last hanging over the main characters like thick, invisible clouds, the policemen you can’t really trust and religious fundamentalists preaching their own brand of religion.
Where the film suffers greatly is the pace. The story takes a while to unravel and by the time it gets to the climax, you might not care anymore. And that is not the sign of a film that calls itself an edge of the seat thriller.
This is not Riz’s first mainstream cinema outing. He has recently starred in Rogue One, the HBO mini-series The Night Of and Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, all roles where he has been recognised. Ahmed has also been admired for his speech in the parliament on the need for British TV to reflect the diverse reality of the people who make up modern Britain (hear, hear). City of Tiny Lights is definitely carried through by Ahmed and is sure to get him acting accolades and critical acclaim.
The supporting cast tries its best to add something special to the film. Billie Piper as Ahmed’s love interest from the past is brilliant but sadly doesn’t have much material to play with. One of my favourite characters has to be Ahmed’s dad, played by Roshan Seth. Roshan is a treat in the few scenes that he is in.
Overall, City of Tiny Lights is a film that audiences who are fans of noir cinema will enjoy. Others might want to go in with some extra patience!