Empire of Light

Empire of Light ★★

Mendes' script is a curious mixture of overthought and undercooked, uniting two wildly different social discourses (racism and movie theatre culture) in a 1980s period setting without a concrete vision of how handle them in concert, let alone say anything particularly new about either. There might be some worthwhile ideas here, but even those are ultimately overwhelmed by a film that doesn't seem willing or able to let individual moments breathe without smothering them with treacly platitudes or gracelessly lurching towards the next plot point. Case in point: the Being There sequence's emotional afterglow lasts about ten seconds. The impeccable production values and a cast that does its best under the underwritten circumstances break some of the fall, but the combined might of Mendes' misguided attempts at pathos and a career-worst score from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross proves too formidable.

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