2016, Movies

City of Tiny Lights (2016, Pete Travis)

City of Tiny Lights takes a really traditional noir story (some might say tired) and ingeniously transplants it to contemporary London, in particular a multi-ethnic, predominantly Muslim neighbourhood. All the classic noir tropes are here but in a completely new form.


There’s the woman who may or may not be a femme fatale. The old friend who’s now rich and who hires the dupe PI to look into the case. The PI who doesn’t know any better and just keeps trying to find out what’s going on, despite how bad it is for him. And, of course, the mysterious, dark secret, this time transplanted to a UK high school love triangle.

It’s a really neat spin on a genre that doesn’t get much attention these days, and I pretty much loved it. The ending is extremely un-noir – a happy, pro-multicultural Britain ending that should have been cheesy but made me feel really good – which almost made me like it more.

But I have one criticism: this is over-stylized, to put it mildly. There is a hell of a lot of slow mo, lots of filters and lots and lots of layered shots, as well as a number of repeated shots. It’s the over-stylized visuals and the lack of faith in the audience to figure out a basic noir plot that keep it from being an absolute classic.


  • Directed by Pete Travis
  • Produced by Ado Yoshizaki Cassuto, Rebecca O’Brien
  • Written by Patrick Neate, Based on City of Tiny Lights by Patrick Neate
  • Starring:
    • Riz Ahmed as Tommy Akhtar
    • Reiss Kershi as Young Tommy Akhtar
    • James Floyd as Hafiz “Lovely” Ansari
    • Antonio Aakeel as Young Lovely
    • Billie Piper as Shelley
    • Cush Jumbo as Melody
    • Roshan Seth as Farzad Akhtar
    • Jake Fairbrother as Tunde
    • Vincent Regan as Tall Man / Schaeffer
    • Danny Webb as DS Cal Donnely
    • Alexander Siddig as Al-Dabaran
    • Liv Hansen as American Woman
    • Anthony Farrelly as Armed Police
    • Amanda Andres as Natasha
    • Hannah Rae as Young Shelley / Emma
  • Music by Ruth Barrett
  • Cinematography by Felix Wiedemann
  • Edited by David Charap
  • Production company: BBC Films, NDF International, Sixteen Films
  • Distributed by Icon Film Distribution
  • Release date: 12 September 2016
  • Running time: 110 minutes
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Language: English

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