Bad Times at the El Royale – Movie Review – A riveting thriller.

Bad Times at the El Royale follows seven strangers, each with their own secrets as they all cross paths at a rundown hotel with dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption, before everything goes to hell.

This is the second film helmed by Drew Goddard, he also wrote this story and what he’s managed to craft is a riveting thriller that often reminded me of Tarantino’s very best for a number of reasons. Stylistically the film looks very slick due to Seamus McGarvey’s methodical cinematography that almost treats the El Royale as a character in it’s own right. The script features engaging dialogue which like Tarantino, allows for long sequences of dialogue to remain very entertaining.

The narrative structure is not always linear and that’s mostly to the films benefit. The film is split into different chapters that focus on specific characters and their room within the hotel. On top of that sometimes the story will transition between the past and present, in order to give some much needed insight into the history of the characters. On a couple of occasions these flashbacks did disrupt the flow of the scene that came before it, but it didn’t happen enough to become a real problem.

The entire cast is stellar, each actor brings their own unique personalities to their role which makes any sequence with a handful of them together very interesting to watch unfold. Jeff Bridges portrays Father Daniel Flynn, a priest who is harbouring a secret that he’s trying to keep hidden from the other guests. Jeff portrays the character in manner which is hard to read, which is great for this type of film because it makes you sympathise with him in certain scenes and despise him in others. Theatre actress Cynthia Erivo gives a breakthrough performance as Darlene Sweet, an aspiring singer who is caught up in the madness of what occurs at the hotel. Cynthia portrays Darlene with a level of focus and understated emotion that makes her compelling to watch. Also she has a powerful singing voice that is put to use a number of times through out the film, during some terrifically staged sequences. Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Cailee Spaeny were all great too. Although the standouts of the film were Chris Hemsworth and relative newcomer Lewis Pullman. The film becomes extremely intense and engaging from the point Chris Hemsworth properly shows up, right until the very end. His energy with this performance is electric and that makes him exciting and unpredictable to watch. He almost stole the entire film, but Lewis Pullman’s performance as Miles Miller, the Hotel’s concierge truly surprised me. It’s the type of performance that creeps up on you, I resonated with his character on an emotional level really well, which is something I never expected. The impact his character had is a testament to Lewis’ performance, but also Goddard’s wonderful dialogue.

The only thing that held this story back isn’t necessarily the revelation of what’s occurring, it’s the fact that the film doesn’t fully explore that mystery once it begins to unravel. Towards the third act the focus of the story begins to shift towards the characters motivations, as opposed to the mystery of the hotel. I didn’t find this to be a bad thing, but I was left wanting a little more in terms of learning about the secrets of the hotel.

I also want to praise how the violence was depicted. The moments of violence are often sudden, blunt and rather grisly. Drew never begins to indulge in the violence and it never becomes gratuitous. In fact a number of these moments come in a very unexpected fashion that makes it rather shocking.

Overall, Bad Times at the El Royale is an engaging thriller which held my intrigue at it’s peak, due to it’s script and slightly unorthodox narrative structure. The entire cast is fantastic and they really helped elevate the experience.

★ ★ ★ ★

(4 Stars out of 5)

-T. Graham.

Bad Times at the El Royale – Starring Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman and Chris Hemsworth.

Directed by Drew Goddard.

Now showing in cinemas.

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