Film Review: Bad Times at the El Royale

Bad Times at the El Royale is the all new, completely original thriller film from the mind of Drew Goddard, famed for his writing episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Daredevil. 

Jon Hamm plays a lead role in the film. Photo: Flickr/Disney I ABC Television Group.

Goddard made his directorial debut with The Cabin in the Woods in 2012, which at the very least immediately shows his incredible versatility.

First off the bat, it has to be said, that the aesthetic of this film is simply beautiful. The music choices, the colour palette, the set design, the character design… every little detail of this film is perfectly coordinated in order to provide the audience with an experience that is uniquely beautiful.

On top of that, the direction is marvellous. Every scene is handcrafted to hold as much information as possible, without ever feeling overwhelming. Yet at the same time, every scene still felt completely vital to the story. This is NOT a film you can just ‘stick on in the background,’ which, is something of a welcome surprise, especially considering the amount of passive audience films that have clogged the market in recent times. Unlike a lot of films we’ve had this year, both good and bad, Bad Times at the El Royale really is a love letter to the film industry, and shows that having one person as the sole writer/director is always preferable to something created by committee. From beginning to end, the heart put into this movie is evident through every scene.

Bad Times at the El Royale is a showcase of talent. We’ve already mentioned the acclaimed screenwriter and director Drew Goddard, who should really be acknowledged with (at least) some Oscar buzz for this film. However, a cast as strong as this one, really can’t be ignored.

There isn’t a weak performance in sight. Every single actor gives each role their all, from Hollywood veteran Jeff Bridges, to total newcomer Cynthia Erivo.  Both actors, who share a lot of screen time, bounce off of each other’s personalities flawlessly, and use their unique flair to really bring these characters to life. At no point did it feel as though their on-screen chemistry was anything other than genuine.

Likewise, Marvel hot-stuff Chris Hemsworth really proves his chops as a serious actor in this film, giving a varied performance as a thoroughly unnerving cult leader, given a deceptively short amount of screen time. He’s a far cry from the mighty Thor, and yet even when out of his comfort zone, he still manages to steal every scene. The casting is absolutely spot on for every single character. Dakota Johnson and Cailee Spaeny really do make a truly convincing pair of sisters and, in an attempt to avoid any spoilers, Jon Hamm is sublime in his role as the straight man.

The motivations of the main characters really does drive the action of this film, which is important for a movie such as this where, if you hadn’t guessed already, there is no out and out ‘good guy.’ None of their motivations can be entirely classed as pure, and yet the audience still want the characters to succeed. Therefore, it is unarguable (in our opinion at least) that this film’s true success is as a character piece. After all, no one wants to love the ‘bad guy.’

Though we can always make an exception for Chris Hemsworth.

That’s not to say however, that the film is without fault entirely. There are times towards the start, where the pacing is all over the place. There’s a lot of jumping around, but once you hit the halfway mark, it more or less sorts itself out. From a writing perspective, there are two very distinctive halves to the film, but aside from a couple of jarring scenes, they flow into each other rather well. The biggest issue with this film is the fact that the ending is dragged out for longer than is necessary, when a perfectly satisfactory ending point had already been established. These issues however, do not in any way impede the overall narrative and the film is a joy to watch.

In conclusion, Bad Times at the El Royale puts a fresh, new, creative spin on the thriller as a film genre. Its innovative directing style paired with the stellar cast is enough for us at The Linc to say that we believe this film will not have a bad time come awards season.

Comments are closed.