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Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Bad Times at the El Royale poster

I first caught Drew Goddard’s sophomore film on a long haul flight. I am not really a fan of movies on the plane - the screens are headphones are shithouse, but what else are you going to do for 17 hours? I was transfixed for the whole 2.5 hours (which was actually pushed out to 4 + hours with all the interruptions from young children!).

Featuring a group of strangers all convening in the titular hotel that sits astraddle the Californian - Nevada border and a rumoured hidden bag of money, Goddard weaves an intriguing noirish web with a Tarantino-esque bent, with non linear storytelling, flashbacks and tense character interactions.

And like QT, Goddard gets the most out of his excellent cast, including Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, John Hamm, Lewis Pullman Dakota Johnson and Chris Hemsworth taking a break from Thor to play a Manson-esque cult leader. There are many secrets hidden both within the hotel and amongst the guests, causing the tension to thicken until it explodes into violence.

Jeff Bridges is always great but he truly excels here, as a troubled man with a shady past who is also suffering from memory problems. Despite his misdeeds, you really feel for him and his relationship with Erivo’s Darlene is the heart of the film. Erivo is equally great as Darlene, an R&B singer in town for a low paying gig. Her emasculating speech to Hemsworth at the end is a brilliant verbal stab wound to all men who seek to control women.

Lewis Pullman (Bill’s son) nails his role as Miles, a damaged ex soldier / hotel porter with his own troubles and the resolution of his story is both heroic and heartbreaking. And Hamm’s Mad Men honed period specific looks and manner is put to perfect use here as a motor mouthed vaccuum cleaner salesman - or is he?

Goddard crafts a meticulous world of beautiful 60s style design, soundtracked by the warm soul sounds of the era. I seem to be in the minority on the film with a lot of people mixed on the length and the convoluted plot, but this is one of those films that just pulls me into its world. A hypnotic, slow burn, twisting treat of a film.

4.5 shotgun blasts out of 5

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