Bad Times At The El Royale Review

Bad Times At The El Royale Review

Welcome To The El Royale

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cynthia Erivo, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman
Director: Drew Goddard
Genre: Thriller
Rated: MA
Running Time: 141 minutes

Synopsis: It's January 1969. Richard Nixon has been inaugurated as the 37th president of the United States. A new decade beckons. And seven very different but equally lost souls converge on the El Royale, a once-glorious resort that has since fallen"like its visitors"into disrepute.

Situated on the border between California and Nevada, the El Royale offers warmth and sunshine to the west; hope and opportunity to the east. It also straddles the colliding worlds of past and present. Once the hotspot of Tahoe, where the country's most famous celebrities and politicians comingled in and around the resort's casino, bar, bungalows and pool, the good times have now come to a close.

As is the El Royale. Now, in the resort's lobby where the shine has faded and the laughter fallen silent, gather Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), soul singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), traveling salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm), hippie Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), her sister Rose (Cailee Spaeny), manager Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman) and the enigmatic Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth).

Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption… before everything goes to hell.

Review: Bad Times at the El Royale is a neo-noir, mystery set in 1969 at a washed up, novelty motel. It was once 'Tahoe's best kept secret' to accommodate the classified and dubious etiquette of the rich and famous but is now just an under-run inn with a dark past. One evening, a strike of fate (or extremely bad luck) finds seven strangers arrive at the has-been motel. In the beginning, each character has to make a choice – which side are they on? Literally, they must choose between a room in either Nevada or California, as the hotel sits on the border between the two states. However, metaphorically the decision is a lot more soul determining. The El Royale is somewhat of a limbo where each of the characters, with a dark past of some description, is given a chance at redemption.

From the outset, an abiding eeriness runs deep in both the characters demeanor and appearance of the hotel. As a storm sets in over the hotel, a secret is discovered which causes the tables to turn on the unsuspecting characters and reveals that things are not as they seem. The story of the characters past and present plays out through a series of cataclysmic events, where each person comes to realise no one is safe - from themselves or each other. Some of the scenes are told from different characters points-of-view and the audience will play detective in piecing together the puzzle, which adds substance and a participatory element to the story. The soundtrack of the production plays a huge part in its success as the music creates a suspenseful back drop as the mystery of the El Royale unfolds. Plus, the chilling and soulful melodies of Cynthia Erivo make for a real thrill.

Ultimately, the question for each of the guests becomes: 'Which side are you on? Right? Wrong? God or no God? Red or black?" This philosophical underpinning of the film is not unlike other successful productions by director Drew Goddard such as The Cabin in the Woods and The Good Place. The production is strange and alluring with slow, winding storytelling and then sharp changes of pace that keep you intrigued. A long series of big reveals awaits the audience, as they take a joy ride through the antics of one fateful night at the El Royale.
- Madeleine Coleman

Bad Times At The El Royale
Release Date: October 11th, 2018