Trying to fall in love with film again.

It may be a 'Bad Time(s) at the El Royale' but it's a good time at the cinema/

Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) - IMDbStory

One night seven strangers each hiding their own secrets check in to the El Royale hotel, situated on the California-Nevada border. Over the course of 1 night, everyone begins to show their true colours.

The story is a pretty simple one and given the claustrophobic nature of the film, there isn't that much room for exploration,  you only focus on what the movie shows/tells you. There are moments where the story does move off course for the sake of backstory and even though they add layers to the story, some scenes didn't flow very well.

The story isn't told sequentially and that also disrupts the flow but it didn't take me out of the film.

Acting

The main draw for me was the cast. It stars Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Lewis Pullman,  Cailee Spaeny, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson and Jeff Bridges.

The acting was good but there were a few standout performances were Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pullman and Jeff Bridges. The performances from the 3 of them were more emotional than I was expecting. Their 3 characters are the emotional core of the film. Having emotion in a film like this gives the audience something to anchor on to as everything else can get out of hand.

This movie revolves around 7 people and it's very easy to get bored when we spend a lot of time with a specific character but each actor is able to hold their own and deliver strong, likeable performances. A lot of the characters reside in a moral grey area and through the performances, I was able to connect with the characters.

Although it wasn't a standout performance, Chris Hemsworth really surprised me. Billy Lee is very different from any other character he's done and he was able to show his range as an actor.

It's almost a given to expect good performances from Jeff Bridges and Jon Hamm. The two of them have proven time and time again that they're charismatic and likeable and this movie is no exception.

I'm excited to see what Lewis Pullman and Cynthia Erivo next because their performances were three-dimensional. You engage with their characters from the beginning of the film till the end.

Writing/Direction

I wouldn't call the writing simple but I wouldn't call it complex either, it falls in a happy medium between the two. The movie doesn't spoon feed you information but doesn't leave you completely confused. There are a few plot threads that were left unexplored but that complaint is a minor one.  It's a very smart movie, with twists and turns and it isn't what you think it is.

Most of the characters are written with their own flaws and they feel like real people with real motivations except one. Billy Lee, he's the most one-dimensional character in the whole movie and it shows. I'm not sure if he was written that way deliberately but he's the weakest character out of the cast. He is one of the most entertaining and he's a wildcard but I would have preferred if his motivations were clearer.

This movie has solid direction, however, the pacing isn't always consistent. It has a runtime of  2 hours and 21 minutes and you start to feel it towards the end, there are scenes that drag on for longer than necessary and if the movie was half an hour shorter it would felt more concise.

It directed by Drew Goddard who also directed 'The Cabin in the Woods'. If you've seen that film, this one will feel very familiar as both films have dark humour and thriller elements, even though Cabin in the Woods is a horror movie and this is a neo-thriller.

This cinematography is also very good, the film looks very crisp, even though the colours don't pop on the screen you get a sense of depth and that makes the film visually appealing. The way the scenes are framed pulled me in and gave me something to focus on.

Set Design/Costume Design

This film has brilliant set design, even though the El Royale doesn't exist, it never felt like a movie set. The El Royale feels like a real hotel (and one that I would like to stay at, excusing the things that may or may not happen there).

The set design also lends itself to the atmosphere of the film (which it should do) there's something ominous and that makes the film as a whole feel tenser.

Visually each character is different and stands out. They all have their own distinct costumes, they may all fall into similar colour palettes but the different styles and textures reflect each character.

Score/Soundtrack

This film has an even mix of soundtrack and score and both compliment the film very very well. The score was composed by y favourite composer Michael Giacchino  (I'm sure I've mentioned this before) and he continues to show why he's one of my favourites.

The movie takes place in the 1960's and the soundtrack reflects that and I'm surprised a lot of the songs used in the movie are not on the official soundtrack.

There is a contrast in the scenes that had the score in the background and those that had the soundtrack in the background but the contrast isn't that distinct. The two blend together really well. In the more tender and emotional moments the score really makes you feel what the characters feel and in the insane moments (and there are quite a few) the soundtrack fits the atmosphere.

One thing I noticed is that in some scenes the score and soundtrack are edited into the scenes and fit the actions on screen much like in Baby Driver. I wasn't expecting and I thought it was brilliant and shows attention to detail.

This may not be my favourite of Michael Giacchino's score but it fits the film perfectly and there are specific songs that I'm definitely going to listen to in the future.

 Overall Thoughts

This wasn't the film I was expecting, although the trailers didn't give much. That's not to say the film was bad. It was entertaining and tense with a good balance of humorous moments.

This movie doesn't have that much rewtatchabiltiy factor. That's not necessarily a bad thing but movies like this one thrive on shock and awe and once you've seen it the shock factor disappears.  However, it's a good popcorn movie and I would recommend it if you wanted something fun to watch because this movie was very fun to watch.

I don't have much to say about this movie. It's one of those you should watch if you really want to. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Was it my favourite movie this year? No. This film is a slow burner that leaves you guessing and it's definitely worth it at the end.

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