Bad Times at the El Royale – 4 out of 5
My introduction to Bad Times at the El Royale was due to an interesting twist on the Coming Attractions section when I went to see The Predator. Teasers for the trailer was shown in small sections between other trailers and theater announcements. At first, I wrote it off thinking it looked stupid because the tone from the tease didn’t look like something that would interest me. However, with each passing segment, more of the tale is feathered out and its true tone was showcased. Then the legit trailer is shown and I found myself going from “I have no interest in this film” to “Whoa, this looks nuts!” It was a pretty smart marketing approach because the film is a mystery and, with all mysteries, clues and developments are slowly revealed over the course of time and that’s exactly what this series of teasers did for the main event; the trailer. It left an impact and it created some high expectations. Usually this can be a recipe for disaster but writer/director Drew Goddard made a damn fine movie and crafted a very engaging mystery.
|I'll be honest, this hotel seems like a cool place. I'll even accept the danger|
that this movie showcases if I ever got to stay in such an establishment.
Once a hotspot of activity and partying, the El Royale has fallen into obscurity and at the end of the 1960s, it becomes a meetup for an odd cast of characters. There’s the absentminded Catholic priest Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the R&B singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), the hippie Emily Summersping (Dakota Johnson) and the chatty vacuum salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm). However, not is all it seems with the guests and they all have their own secrets. Even the hotel’s only employee; Miles Miller, has his own secrets to bear and the secrets the hotel holds. What brings them all to the El Royale? What dangers lie in wait? Matters only get worse and suspicions reach a fever pitch when a charismatic cult leader by the name of Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) shows up.
|Shows up with his stupid perfect body that makes me hate my fat, disgusting body.|
Bad Times at the El Royale has a lot going on for it that makes it a very engaging mystery and entertaining film. Visually, the film is just a delight to behold. Drew Goddard made every scene just look spectacular. The methodical movements of the camera and the angles at work from a pure visual standpoint grabbed me and enhanced the viewing experience. The story presented is already very interesting but the way Goddard made the film look and the emotional expression he was able to convey through the visuals and the very tight editing made something that was also a treat for the eyes.
|Yes, even with the creepy way people can look in on you in your room doesn't|
stop me from wanting to stay here. Besides, all anyone would see if they
snooped in on me is a man who cries a lot and eats his feelings.
From a story perspective, this feature has got it going on—something I’ve literally never said about a movie I’ve watched. Mysteries are a hard genre to master because if you give too much it isn’t fun and if you give too little they are frustrating. Even worse is when a mystery decides to just throw in a resolution or reveal that isn’t foreshadowed or teased at all throughout the story and you are left with a feeling of being played and shortchanged by the production (a lot of horror mysteries will do this and it is a dick move). Bad Times is unique in that it is a mystery that never feels like a real mystery. Often mysteries are features that you just want to get answers from but this one the journey is more important than the reveal and watching the tale unfold and develop is the highpoint. The ultimate question of who everyone really is and what they are up to is still incredibly interesting but Goddard was able to write and present a tale where watching everything grow and reveal itself is just as cool as having the full understanding that comes at the end of a mystery. Even more impressive was Goddard’s near mastery over pacing and how he knew when and where the film needs to move slowly and more methodically and where exactly he can pick up the pace. This resulted in a feature that never drags or feels like it is padding itself out with needless moments.
|The Dude preaches.|
|Hamm can do comedy, drama, thrillers...|
he better do a musical next so I can see him
nail that too.
Finally, the cast is absolutely stellar in this film. Everyone is so captivating to watch and there were even some players that gave me a pleasant surprise. Lewis Pullman, who plays the hotel employee Miles, was a performer I wrote off early in the film because I wasn’t expecting anything from his character beyond being a peripheral part of the story. However, Miles goes on to play an important role as he has some secrets of his own and Pullman really did a tremendous job with it. He was so meager and small in the beginning that it was easy to push him into the background and that’s what made his turnaround so interesting. Additionally, I wasn’t too thrilled with Dakota Johnson being in this film because my experience with her stems only from her, honestly, boring performance in Fifty Shades of Grey (but, let’s be real here, nothing about that film was great) so when I saw her in the initial teaser for the trailer that day in the cinema, she was the reason I wrote the film off. However, unlike Fifty Shades, she actually has some depth and dimension and isn’t just being wooden and forgettable. Really, everyone in this cast was awesome because they all brought their A-game to make their characters captivating.
|Ron Swanson himself, Nick Offerman, is in the film as that masked man.|
The only real downside I found for this film is replay value. Chances are this won’t be going into my regular rotation and will be a movie that I have to be in a mood to see in order to re-watch. That is in no way me condemning Bad Times at the El Royale because it is an amazing movie that is expertly crafted. With its strong visuals, engrossing story and awesome-sauce performances, the film is incredible in every conceivable way. While I don’t think it has endless replay value for me personally, I do find it to be an astounding feature.