FILM REVIEW: BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE
BY KYLE ARANGO
Very few trailers surprise me when they debut on the internet. Being a part of this community, I usually know what is coming out, so few films sneak up on me. When the trailer for Bad Times at the El Royale came out, I was blown away and instantly anticipating it more than any other movie this year. Could Bad Times at the El Royale live up to the hype I had made for it in my mind? 1000% yes! This is a phenomenal film. Every year one film just floors me, and this film is that one for 2018.
Bad Times at the El Royale has a very interesting concept to start off. The El Royale is a hotel on the border of Nevada and California and guests have the option to either have a room in one state or the other. Individual strangers all show up on the same day with different agendas looking for a place to stay for the night. We have a priest, a singer, a salesman, an angry woman, a bellhop, and a mysterious outsider (use all of those in a “walks into a bar” joke). Each have a past and a goal while they are there, and their paths inevitably collide this one night at the hotel. Does this sound familiar? Yes, because The Hateful 8 had a similar concept but this film executes is so better in many different ways. Director Drew Goddard makes you care about all these characters when you know you really shouldn’t and throughout he continues to surprise you with where the film goes. This is only Drew Goddard’s second directorial feature after Cabin in the Woods. He is primarily known for his writing and producing with such films as Cloverfield, The Martian, and the Daredevil television series. He understands the importance of character with the feel of tension and displays that here beautifully.
Now with a concept like this that relies so heavy on character, you need some talented actors to make it work and Bad Times at the El Royale certainly has that. Everyone here is great such as Dakota Johnson, Nick Offerman, John Hamm, and Lewis Pullman, but there are a few I particularly want to highlight. Jeff “The Dude” Bridges is here as a mysterious priest, which only points to greatness from him as he just continuously tops himself every time. He is playing a character here who is towards the end of his life and is coming to grips with not being the person he once was. Just like he did in Hell or High Water, Bridges brings a mortality to the role and gives one of his best performances to date. In what is her first performance, Cynthia Ervio is amazing. This woman is the only character who has a pure soul is just at the wrong place at the wrong time. For a first timer, she goes toe to toe with Bridges like a veteran actress. Finally, Chris Hemsworth surprised the hell out of me in this film. This character is the most complex he has ever played and called for him to really stretch his acting muscles. He plays a cult leader and as we get to see him in action, its understandable why people would follow him. He has a charm and menace to him that was unsettling. Easily said that all these actors deserve a nomination this year and it’ll be a mistake to over-look them.
What needs to be said about Bad Times at the El Royale is the experience it gives in the theater. The film will stick with you much like Arrival & Blade Runner 2049 and will leave you enjoying an unforgettable movie going ride. Throughout the film you feel uneasy and then startled by the twists and turns it takes. It’s purely adrenaline boiling. There is a scene where one dangerous character is watching another sing without her knowing while something else is going on and by the end of that scene, you will feel the need to catch your breath.
Bad Times at the EL Royale is a heart pounding, intense, thrill ride that will unsettled all the way through, yet you never want it to stop. Drew Goddard directed this thing so well that I cannot wait to see what he does next. The performances by the entire cast are what you want in every film and there is no weak link in sight. This is the best film of 2018 so far for me and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.