Film Review: City of Tiny Lights

Director Pete Travis’ City of Tiny Lights is an enjoyable detective thriller. The film hits the mark more often than it misses. 

Tommy Aktar is a private eye living and working in London. He is asked to find a missing prostitute by her flatmate. At the same time, faces from Tommy’s past remerge as he investigates his latest case…

With City of Tiny Lights, director Pete Travis and writer Patrick Neate have crafted a homage to classic film noir in a thoroughly modern setting. Tommy Aktar is the quintessential noir detective. He is a whiskey drinking, chain-smoking private detective wracked with thoughts from his past. So far, so archetypal. Where the film excels is in its transplant of noir tropes to a contemporary London setting. This mixes a detective story set in a murky underworld with very ordinary surroundings. 

The film is frequently funny, despite a brooding narrative. The dialogue works well, although the narration can feel a bit laboured. Thankfully, this is not present throughout the duration. The film’s different strands combine well, although this makes some elements a bit predictable. Viewers may predict the real enemy long before the reveal. The conversation between Tommy and his father using a particular cricket term aides this by dropping a big hint. 

Flashbacks in City of Tiny Lights build the back character of the protagonist successfully. These sequences look very authentic for the period in which they are set. Interactions with Tommy and Avid are great, as well the initial meeting with Melody. Some of the action sequences are hindered by the shaky, blurry camerawork. Although a sense of confusion and motion is aimed for, it takes viewers out of the scene. Riz Ahmed delivers a solid performance as Tommy. Billie Piper provides decent support as Shelley. Rohan Seth stands out amongst the supporting cast.

City of Tiny Lights is a modern take on a classic genre. Once again, Riz Ahmed’s talents are showcased in an engaging manner.