Bad Times at El Royale is The Hateful Eight, but better. There you go, I said it: better than Tarantino. What an amazing movie!!! I could end here this review of the latest film by Drew Goddard (the same director of The Cabin in the Woods, 2012) and starring Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, and Jon Hamm, but instead I will elaborate a little more.
In reality there’s little to say: everything is perfect. The plot is complicated but everything works down to the smallest detail, and the mystery unfolds little by little keeping the viewer glued to the screen from beginning to end. The characters are all memorable and perfectly in line with the historical period in which the story takes place, the 60s. The dialogues are finely chiseled and credible. The soundtrack is EXTRAORDINARY to say the least, and I don’t know if Cynthia Erivo really sings in the scenes in which her character sings, but… she’s amazing! The direction is perfect, the cinematography is splendid and it’s brilliant how it changes during the flashback scenes to make them stand out from the main storyline. And now let me do a little spoiler talk: it’s inevitable, but I promise that I’ll keep it to a minimum.
In Bad Times at El Royale some very peculiar characters meet in a hotel that has fallen into disgrace on the border (literally!) between Nevada and California. Jeff Bridges plays Father Flynn, an old priest with memory problems, Cynthia Erivo plays Darlene Sweet, a little-known singer, Jon Hamm plays a salesman, Dakota Johnson (did you know that she’s the granddaughter of Tippi Hedren, the protagonist of The Birds by Hitchcock?) plays a hippie of few words, and Lewis Pullman is the inefficient Miles, a hotel employee. After an introduction in which we already begin to suspect that things are not exactly what they seem, in various chapters dedicated to the occupants of the hotel, Drew Goddard reveals the real identity of the characters, one more interesting than the other. And here I stop so as not to ruin the plot to those who have not seen the film!
I believe this movie wouldn’t exist without Tarantino. We see his influence in the use of music, which is practically omnipresent, in the verbose dialogues, in the structure of chapters, in some plot choices, and, why not, in the use of violence. At the same time, I think Goddard managed to make a better film of his most direct inspiration, The Hateful Eight (2015), in which some very peculiar personages meet in a hotel (in the far west) in the middle of the nothing. Mind you: I love The Hateful Eight! At the same time, I think that its plot wouldn’t stand a thorough examination… while in Bad Times at El Royale everything works like a Swiss watch! Nothing is as it seems, but when we discover what’s behind the curtains, everything makes sense.
I particularly liked the character of Darlene Sweet who has suffered so many injustices and harassment in her life. All that manages to come out in a dialogue with Billy Lee, the character played by Chris Hemsworth who arrives about halfway through the film to add a bit of pepper to the story (as if needed!). And Jeff Bridges is masterful, which is not surprising with an actor like that, but it always feels good to praise him (I recently appreciated him in Crazy Heart, 2009, for example).
In short: it’s a great movie and I cannot wait to have it on DVD/Bluray to enjoy it again! Super recommended, of course! Ciao!
PS: for those who have seen the film … Hamm’s case is about Bob Kennedy, right? Or his brother?