Anthony Byrne's London-set spy thriller In Darkness opens with an extreme close-up on a woman's eye, mascaraed lashes thick and beautiful and its lid shuddering in fear, all as an orchestral score swells. This might be a nod to the opening credits sequence of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo but it also transforms into a meta-statement on the movies themselves. The woman in the image, we discover, is actually an actress on a screen being watched by an orchestra scoring a film. Then, the moment the camera pans over to blind pianist Sofia (played by Natalie Dormer, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Byrne), it's obvious she's the coiffed blond protagonist of this espionage tale. Too bad that story ultimately loses focus and its protagonist's point of view.
Sofia has a healthy fascination with her upstairs neighbor, Veronique (Emily Ratajkowski), a hypnotically beautiful and mysterious woman whose father, Radic (Jan Bijvoet), is a Serbian war criminal. One night, Sofia overhears a scuffle from the apartment above and something being launched out the window. She can't actually see a body, but she senses that Veronique must be dead on the ground. Up until this incident, the story has held tight to Sofia's POV; whatever's going on is a puzzle that can only be pieced together through her eyes and other senses. Byrne in these early scenes doubles down on the unnerving tension with a series of Dutch angles and overhead shots -- done before but still majorly effective. So it's a bit disappointing when Byrne departs Sofia's POV to catch up with Radic and his cohorts. All these less fascinating characters gum up the intrigue.