Bad Times at The El Royale is the latest film by Drew Goddard, famous for the horror “The House in the Woods” and for writing the screenplay for “The Martian”, for which he obtained an Oscar nomination. Here is the review of his new work.
The main characters are seven people who will all be in a famous motel that is located in two different states, California and Nevada. In fact, El Royale is located exactly in the middle of the border. And here we will find: a priest, a salesman, a singer, a young hippie, a kidnapped girl, the guy who runs the motel and, finally, a young criminal. All of them with secrets and a story to tell.
In Bad Times at The El Royale, Goddard takes a lot of the filmmakers who have already worked on the genre neo-noir thriller western. In particular Tarantino, which seems the great source of inspiration for this screenplay. The film, indeed, analyzes the story of all the seven making us understand who they are and how they arrived at El Royale. Stories that fit together perfectly with each other and that feed to create a great tension that increases with the progress of the film.
But although Bad Times at The El Royale is a genre film, one can not say the same about the issues in question. Goddard wrote a very political film that contains a strong social critique to America. At El Royale, which is repeatedly called “a place for perverts,” there is all the worst that America has to offer. It starts from Nixon and the Watergate scandal, then go to the famous head of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover, famous for using the resources of the state to investigate the sexual activities of politicians rather than to investigate crimes.
It continues with racism, Charles Manson and his crimes, the war in Vietnam, violence, to which almost all the protagonists are linked, perhaps ending up with some reference to JFK. There is also American voyeurism, although it is typical of the whole world, but in America it seems to be stronger, everyone wants to know what happens in everyone’s private life. A decidedly anti-American film, which creates a much cruder portrait of America exactly on the border of the two states most connected to the American dream: California and Nevada.
Goddard intertwines stories well and builds all the characters very well, although there are obviously some that work harder and others that work less. Precisely on this you had to work a little, but you still manage to empathize with everyone. Very nice the rhythm, the film is not at all slow, but there is simply less tension at the beginning. But it rises with the advance of the minute by sliding its two hours and twenty minutes very well with great dialogue, great suspense and great action scenes.
Goddard’s direction is fantastic. Even here there are various references to those who have explored the genre before him, so Tarantino, the Cohens, but there is always the vision of Goodard. Bad Times at The El Royale is not a copy of “The Hateful Eight” and other Tarantino films, it’s just a film that does not hide the sources from which the inspiration was taken, but Goddard does not disappear. His style remains and I enjoyed it much more than “The House in the Woods”. I liked the way he builts the scenes, the shots, the camera movements. Direction is very valid.
The director of cinematography is Seamus McGarvey, famous for Atonement. It is crazy and extravagant, like the film itself. The movie set was built very well. El Royale is made to perfection, the lobby, the bar, the rooms, the corridors. Sixties soundtrack (the film is set in ’69) which is literally a bomb.
Finally, the cast also gave a lot to Bad Times at The El Royale. I have also evaluated some people. Chris Hemsworth first of all. Not that his performance was extraordinary, but I think it’s the first time he has proven he can immerse himself in a character. Dakota Johnson very good. Good debut for Lewis Pullman and Cailee Spaeny, great as always Jeff Bridges and Jon Hamm. But the best was Cynthia Erivo, who gave all of herself. Revelation of the year.
So, absolutely go to see Bad Times at The El Royale, highly recommended if you are a fan of Tarantino, but the film is not aimed only at those.
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