Bad Times at the El Royale Review

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Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm

Director: Drew Goddard

Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption… before everything goes to hell. Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson and Cynthia Erivo lead an all-star cast in BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE.

Review:

Personally speaking, I love it when studios take risks on films that they know may not pay off financially for them in the long-run.  With Bad Times at the El Royale, we see what happens when a studio takes that risk.  With Drew Goddard’s past projects like The Martian and Cabin in the Woods, naturally someone who has seen those works would be excited for whatever Goddard has in store for us this time.  While not as strong as the aforementioned titles, a stacked cast and an interesting story make Bad Times at the El Royale one of the more interesting movies of the fall movie season.

The film follows a group of guests who have decided to book a stay at the El Royale, a unique hotel that sits directly between both California and Nevada.  During their stay, the guests realize the hotel is not what they think it is and the other guests are hiding just as many secrets as the hotel.  When you have a cast with this many talented actors, you know for a fact that the film will be full of strong performances from the leads all the way to the minor roles.  From Bridges and Hamm to Chris Hemsworth, these actors all make the most of whatever screen time they are given and make sure we are constantly captivated.  The actress who surprised me the most however was Johnson.  I have only really seen Johnson in the Fifty Shades series, so seeing her in something that was actually well thought out and written by talented people show us that she can in fact act when given the opportunity to do so.  Outside of the cast, the story is incredibly captivating and keeps you interested the entire time. There are so many moving parts that you have to pay attention the entire time and understand what each character’s motivation and intentions are.  Some people may not like movies where you have to actively pay attention to what people are saying and the little hints in the background, but this level of detail is one of the things that makes Bad Times at the El Royale such an enjoyable and special movie.  One of the things that has criticized about the movie is the lengthy 141 minute runtime.  Many people have stated that the pacing is poor and that certain scenes could have been shortened or removed all together.  While I agree that the film is a tad slow in the final act, I never found the pacing to be that bad.  With such a complex story and a plethora of characters to learn more about, at least this movie respects its audience enough to provide us the necessary details for us to understand why everything is happening in the end.  While this movie may be a lot to take in, I appreciate it when a film tries to challenge us by taking risk as compared to the opposite where we get the same cookie cutter stories over and over again.

Overall, while I was expecting something closer to that of Goddard’s previous works, I was more than satisfied with the performances and the interesting story that Goddard has crafted for us.  Even with a cast as strong as this one, this is not going to be biggest money earner for its studio this year, but some things are more important than how much money a film makes.  Very few studios will allow directors to have as much creative control as Goddard had for this film, and his previous experiences probably played a part in why this filmed ended up the way it did.  Sometimes you have to take a risk to capture something truly unique and special, and while not all of those risks pay off here, at least someone cared enough to try and do something different.

Overall Score: 7/10

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