Bad Times at the El Royale is a neo noir thriller written and directed by The Cabin in the woods’ Drew Goddard. Starring an all star cast including Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson and Chris Hemsworth.
First of all, I loved this film. At 2 hours 20 minutes, it is a lengthy film with a slow burn which doesn’t fail to keep us intrigued or curious. The film sees an eclectic assortment of strangers arrive at the El Royale hotel, which sits on the border between Nevada and California. Naturally, you can’t put that many shady people in an even shadier hotel without shady shenanigans occurring. The performances by all were excellent, and it is a joy to see so many actors on top of their game going head to head with one another.
Everybody here is clearly accomplished in their craft, and each actor embodies their character well. From Hemsworth’s enigmatic cult leader Billy Lee to Lewis Pullman’s disturbed Vietnam veteran turned addict bellhop Miles Miller. The characters are one of the film’s strongest points. The characters all feel like they have been ripped straight from a noir mystery thriller yet also have a strange realism to them.
The cinematography of the film is also beautiful, with neon lit signs contrasted against a seemingly relentless storm making for scenic and complex visuals. Tonally this film also stands out, and when necessary can be incredibly tense. There is a scene where Cynthia Erivo and Jeff Bridges are in a room trying to reach money hidden under the floorboards, and the tension employed in the scene works flawlessly.
The film also demonstrates the complexity of morality and how good intentions and naivety can be one’s downfall. Those that have explicitly good or bad intentions die, but those simply out to exist and to serve themselves live, perhaps acting as a greater social allegory than your typical pulpy throwback to a bygone era.
The violence is visceral and raw, adding to the dour and bleak undertones of the film and also showing us that anything can happen in this film. Perhaps the only issue is the timing and pacing, as the pacing of the acts was a tad hot or miss. This is my only quarrel with the film however, and I daresay this film may be a contender for my film of the year.
VERDICT: Overall, I would give Bad times at the El Royale a 9.5/10 and I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.