Movie Review: Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Directed by Drew Goddard, perhaps best known for the much more horror-oriented World War Z and Cloverfield (both as writers) or Cabin in the Woods (as writer and director), Bad Times at the El Royale is a 2018 thriller, featuring an ensemble cast. Elderly priest Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), lounge singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), vaccuum saleslman Laramie Sullivan (Jon Hamm) and bad-girl Emily (Dakota Johnson) each arrive at The El Royale hotel, seemingly staffed only by the young Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman). Situated on the California/Nevada border, the El Royale has housed many political and famous Hollywood guests over it’s years, and secrets run deep in the backrooms of the establishment. As a storm sets in, each resident begins to show their true colours, as a handsome and mysterious stranger approaches (Chris Hemsworth).

+ every performance is just spectacular. Jeff Bridges is phenomenal, as always, and Dakota Johnson has proven herself (to me, at least) to be more than just “that 50 Shades girl”. I’m not always a big fan of Jon Hamm, but his focal points in this movie were so tense, or intense, and he genuinely stole his scenes
+ Chris Hemsworth is unbelievably charming and charismatic is hard not to want to just do everything he tells you to. Also, he spends his entire screen time run in an open shirt, so there are no complaints from me there
+ I am always a fan of the “bottle episodes”, where an entire plot takes place in a small or single location, and this is no exception. The El Royale hotel might night quite be a character in itself, compared to something like The Shining’s Overlook Hotel, but it comes damn close. Every secret the hotel holds adds another layer to an already twisting and turning plot

– there are some serious pacing issues, almost to the point that I left the theatre feeling like I’d wasted my (very long) time. I can’t recall any movie in recent memory having me so hooked for over two hours before throwing that momentum away
– the films leaves so many questions unanswered, and not just the ones intended to cause post-viewing discussion. Seemingly major plot points are brought up and hinted to have huge repercussions, only to be never followed up on

> there are a few very small cameos of people you may recognise, and others you may not. Keep an eye out for Parks and Recreation alumni Nick Offerman (the show’s Ron Swanson) and Jim O’Heir (Jerry, Gerry, Gary etc.) and The Good Place‘s Manny Jacinto (Jason on the show)

Should you see this film: For over two hours I was deeply enthralled, and until the final scene I would have said this was a cannot miss experience. But now, taken in full, I can easily say to just wait until this is on Netflix. I have a habit of “fantasy booking” how movies or TV shows should go, but fankly I think whatever version I came up with would have been a lot more enjoyable.


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