BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE
Seven strangers turn up at the deserted but not yet abandoned Lake Tahoe motel El Royale, to be greeted by the troubled young Miles (Lewis Pullman) the receptionist ... and everything else. Over the course of one hectic night, they all have a shot at redemption, but they don't all get there.
Review by Louise Keller:
A priest who can't remember, a hippy with a hostage and a soul singer with a metronome are some of the colourful characters in this badass mystery thriller that plays like a surreal jigsaw puzzle in which time flits about like a hyperactive dragonfly. Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods, 2012) is fearless in his creation of a wild and wonderful film that keeps us guessing and enthralled until the very end. Of the seven strangers who gather at the El Royale, the pivotal location for the action, everyone has an agenda, but only one is an innocent.
Beginning with a stunning screenplay that is as edgy as the rhythmic music score that propels the exposition with a sense of urgency and pace, Goddard's characters are downright interesting. It always feels fresh; the film is divided into sections - each of which focuses on one of the characters. Watch carefully - you will not want to miss the backstories, what happens now and who is watching whom.
The film is inventive, thrilling, shocking and most of all - entertaining. The humour is subtle; the dialogue zings. There are many revelations, some graphic violence and an emotional heart whose intensity will surprise. Tears ran down my cheeks in the climactic sequence whose drama is not distracted by the excess that surrounds it.
The less you know about the characters the better - the joys of the film are in the discovery as we walk the tightrope that divides good and bad. Truth and lies spin on the roulette wheel - metaphorically and literally, as the intricate web of interactions come to their spectacular conclusion.
What can you say about a film that takes place in a seedy hotel that basks in its days of former glory and a cast as diverse as Jeff Bridges, who simply gets better and better, Chris Hemsworth impressive without a shirt but as you've never seen him before, the alluring Dakota Johnson and the scene stealing Cynthia Erivo, whose pure singing voice is a knockout. Everyone is excellent - the film's most potent scenes are between Bridges, Erivo and Lewis Pullman, who portrayal of the hotel manager afraid for his soul, will forever haunt you.
The film reminded me of that Winston Churchill quote about tact being the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. Tact may not be part of Goddard's arsenal, but he sure makes us look forward to this addictive hellish ride.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
You're going to remember this film. And you're going to remember Darlene (Cynthia Erivo), the black singer whose voice is as good as her story. You'll also remember young Miles (Lewis Pullman), the motel gofer whose innocuous and nervous presence hides a secret or 23. But then all the characters have a secret, and so does the El Royale itself, a gaudy, neon blasting motel not far from the action in Nevada. It straddles the border with California, the border running through its centre. This is where things collide ...
The film is memorable for several other elements, including the multi-layered story that has a bang in the tail. Drew Goddard's bravura work is a relentlessly inventive, high voltage affair, juggling all the character arcs and story lines with the seamless ease of a master juggler. But if you want to really enjoy the film at its fullest, stop reading now.
No spoilers, but frankly, the film does such a great job of revelation that it is a shame to say too much more. Goddard's confidence is revealed in his use of humour, always surprisingly and subtly. Like his casting against type of Chris Hemsworth (you'll have to see it to understand), so his willingness to blast us out of our seats with sudden impact behaviour, he is willing to take huge cinematic gambles. And he trusts his audience.
He must also be trusted by his cast, because they deliver everything he needs for this gelignite of a film to work. Erivo's singing makes a more than incidental contribution in various scenes, and her relationship with Jeff Bridges' Father Flynn is one of the many highlights of this work. I was going to have a little whinge about the drawn out and mood altering third act, but it's so full of great work I won't bother. Go and remember this film.
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BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE (MA15+)
CAST: Dakota Johnson, Callee Spaeny, Chris Hemsworth, Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pullman
PRODUCER: Drew Goddard, Jeremy Latcham
DIRECTOR: Drew Goddard
SCRIPT: Drew Goddard
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Seamus McGarvey
EDITOR: Lisa Lassek
MUSIC: Michael Giacchino
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Martin Whist
RUNNING TIME: 142 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Twentieth Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 18, 2018