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Bad Times at the El Royale (15)
Directed by Drew Goddard
FROM the director of The Cabin in the Woods comes a smart and stylish mystery thriller with a political and social edge. Part film noir, part crime fiction, part dark comedy, Bad Times at the El Royale is wonderfully gripping and entertaining.
Set in January 1969, against the backdrop of Richard Nixon having been inaugurated as the 37th US President, it has seven strangers — each with a secret to bury — arriving at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale hotel which, like its visitors, has fallen into disrepute. Bizarrely, half of the hotel is situated in Nevada, the other half in California.
With the action unfolding over the course of one night, in a single location, each character is given a shot at redemption.
Writer-director Drew Goddard delivers a tantalising and captivating thriller full of mysterious, colourful characters and it’s packed with twists and misdirections which are very reminiscent of a Quentin Tarantino film. At times it feels like you are watching a play but a rather slick and stylish one.
The first arrivals you meet are a priest (Jeff Bridges), a soul singer (the extraordinary Cynthia Erivo), a travelling salesman (Jon Hamm) and a hippie (Dakota Johnson) as well as the twenty-something dishevelled hotel manager (Lewis Pullman) and you soon learn about each of their back stories and how they ended up at El Royale.
The surreal California-Nevada split, the metaphor which runs throughout the film, represents warmth and sunshine to the west and hope and opportunity to the east, according to Goddard, and that’s set against the paranoia of the late-60s period and the inordinate surveillance conducted at that time.
The film’s punctuated by sterling performances from A-listers, including Chris Hemsworth as a charismatic cult leader with a disturbing penchant for young girls. But it is the lesser-known Erivo, Pullman and Cailee Spaeny as Johnson’s younger sister who leave a more indelible impression.
All in all this quirky and eclectic crime thriller makes the perfect popcorn movie.
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