By, CHARLIE PINGEL
Some movies are simply refreshing. Sometimes, after the credits roll, the audience sits and feels satisfied, refreshed by an hour or two of film that simply leaves them feeling better. This refreshment is not always happy, necessarily; rather, it is something brought on by a filmmaker’s ability to bring the audience along on a journey and leave them with something satisfying. In the case of Drew Goddard’s latest directorial effort, Bad Times at the El Royale, satisfaction comes in the form of a unique experience, filled with intrigue and suspense all its own, and one that is sure to leave its mark on an already phenomenal year for the cinema.
Set in 1969, Bad Times at the El Royale is the story of four strangers who all find themselves spending the night at the famed El Royale, a motel that rests directly on top of the California-Nevada border. After being greeted by the motel’s sole employee, a nervous bellhop with a tendency to ramble, the guests head to their separate rooms, each hoping to be left alone to his or her own vices. When one guest makes an unusual discovery, however, the evening soon falls into chaos, quickly building to a final encounter that will leave no guest unchanged. Cult leaders, lounge singers, FBI agents, priests and one hell of a thunderstorm all collide in what is sure to be one of the most talked about movies of late 2018 by film buffs across the nation.
The first thing this movie has going for it is its cast. With a wonderful ensemble, bringing together the likes of Jeff Bridges and Jon Hamm, this movie does not have a bad performance in it. The cast is rather small, as there aren’t really any extras or quick supporting characters to be had. The four leads each deliver singular performances and really help the audience connect with each character. Up-and-coming Lewis Pullman and Cynthia Erivo really prove to be the standouts, holding their own against contemporary, and much more well-known actress Dakota Johnson. If there is one thing this movie can’t be knocked for, it’s the performances.
In terms of issues, there are a few that must be mentioned. In playing against traditional mystery movie expectations, the film will leave many unsatisfied. Not all questions are directly answered and the wrap-up of the film may appear messy to some. The viewer is required to do quite some thinking outside the narrative to understand some of the more vague implications of certain plot devices. Because of that, this is not necessarily a film that will appeal to mass audiences. Also, in the middle of the film, the plot can begin to drag and cause viewers to become bored. This is a 2 ½ hour movie and can really start to feel its length at times.
Regardless of narrative faults, director Drew Goddard has really delivered something truly unique in mainstream Hollywood. In his slow-burn, restrained approach to the mystery and suspense of his character’s backstories and personal conflicts, Goddard calls back to the days of noir and classic suspense. This film is a brilliant storytelling homage to the eras of Alfred Hitchcock and Jean-Pierre Melville. Audiences looking for a quick-paced, bullet-filled, action thriller will be disappointed, as Goddard has thrown the modern archetypes of the genre on their respective heads. But, those movie lovers who are looking for a unique and refreshing experience will be hard-pressed to find something more enticing than this. Despite any ambition-laden shortcomings, Bad Times at the El Royale is restrained and unique, a refreshing take on suspense and mystery that cements Goddard as the modern master of genre deconstruction. 8/10
GIF of the movie Bad Times at the El Royale. GIF By, JONDAVID OTTENBACHER|DIGITAL EDITOR