Sunday, October 21, 2018

Bad Times at the El Royale

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The neo-noir genre has been deconstructed & reconstructed various times since its inception. Directors such as the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino & Paul Thomas Anderson have been integral in reforming the genre in the past few decades.

The newest film to attempt reforming the genre is Bad Times at the El Royale, a sleek, stylish, & entertaining neo-noir. Set in 1969, the film follows Daniel Flynn (played by Jeff Bridges), an aging Catholic priest who has decided to book a stay at the El Royale, which is most well-known for its location that crosses the California-Nevada border. Once a popular establishment, the El Royale has now fallen on hard times.

Some other people arrive at the same time as Flynn: Darlene Sweet (played by Cynthia Erivo), an aspiring R&B singer who is about to perform in Reno the next day; Laramie Seymour Sullivan (played by Jon Hamm), a salesman from the South; & Emily Summerspring (played by Dakota Johnson), a young woman. They are all checked in by Miles Miller (played by Lewis Pullman), who is the only employee at the hotel.

Afterwards, things start to get very interesting. Flynn & Sweet start to hit it off, as Sullivan gets very concerned with some evidence in the hotel. Meanwhile, Emily has brought someone along with her: her sister Rose (played by Cailee Spaeny), whom Emily seems to have kidnapped. But things only get more interesting when money & a roll of film, culminating in the arrival of charismatic cult leader Billy Lee (played by Chris Hemsworth).

The cast is fantastic. Jeff Bridges gives one of his best performances in a while, possibly his best since his Oscar-winning performance in Crazy Heart. Cynthia Erivo gives a star-making performance. Dakota Johnson shows that she can act, after having all her acting ability squandered by bad scripts in the past. And Chris Hemsworth is absolutely wild.

Drew Goddard's direction is excellent. Goddard demonstrates an immense amount of flair & style, reminiscent of the earlier films of the Coen Brothers & Quentin Tarantino.

Drew Goddard's screenplay is brilliant. The plot is intriguing, the characters are wildly idiosyncratic, & the dialogue is perfect.

Seamus McGarvey's cinematography is gorgeous. The color palette is dominated by reds, oranges & yellows, & there's an amazing 5-minute long take that is just wondrous.

Danny Glicker's costume design is amazing. The costumes are period-accurate, lavish, colorful, & just lovely to look at.

And Martin Whist's production design is wonderful. The sets are period-accurate, lavish, colorful, & completely immerse you in the time period.

This is one of the best films of the year. It's a thrilling deconstruction of the neo-noir, filled with amazing performances, stylish direction, & a terrific screenplay.

Bad Times at the El Royale was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, October 12, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 141 minutes, & it is rated R for strong violence, language, some drug content & brief nudity.

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