We might need to work on your sales pitch son- ‘The El Royale, no place for a priest’
This was one of many quotable lines in the trailer that rose ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ to the top of my most anticipated films list for the second half of the year. However, as the reviews began to pour in, I grew anxious that the film wouldn’t actually deliver. It hadn’t gone down well with critics and the reception from fans was not as positive as I had expected. Nevertheless, I really wanted my initial anticipation to be rewarded with an engaging and exciting few hours of film, so went to see it at the first opportunity…
What is it about?
Six visitors, and a mysterious concierge, at the El Royale all harbour their own secrets; but what will their pasts mean for their collective future. As secrets soon begin to emerge, tempers flare and lives hang in the balance. But will all the El Royale visitors leave with what they came for?
What did I think?
This film was exceptionally stylish and consistently used unique cinematography and a good mix of music to contribute to each scene’s atmosphere. This was apparent right from the start, as the very opening scene was a tone-setting, landscape shot of one of the hotel room’s at the El Royale. What I also thought was clever about this scene was that, although initially it was confusing and seemed unrelated to anything we might come to expect, the way it so effortlessly came into play later in the film was very rewarding. Also on the point of the film’s style, I liked that each character in the film seemed to have their own unique personality and backstory that was almost completely unpredictable. This meant that with every subversion in the plot a new strand of a person’s character was revealed. Personally, I liked Jon Hamm’s character as he had: witty one-liners; an exuberant personality and an exciting duplicitous agenda. Finally, I liked the film’s ending and felt despite it’s pitfalls elsewhere it meant I came out of the film with some lasting sense of pleasure.
However, this film was a bitter disappointment. It wasn’t a terrible film; but because I had so much hope invested in it, the fact it was so mediocre was infuriating. First of all, the film was too long, (at 141 minutes.) Vast swathes of the plot were completely unnecessary and left a bitter taste that reflected poorly on the better scenes of the film. Although points across the film were ingenious and stylish, the time between these scenes just felt like filler and at times it was incredibly boring. Furthermore, even with the points that were unique, too often they were left unreturned to, leading to a mix of: confusion (as to what was really going on) and frustration (because they seemed like interesting points, that we were just briefly teased with.) The main point that left me feeling like this was the flashback to the cult of Chris Hemsworth (if anyone actually understood this, then please do let me know.) Finally, my main problem with this film was that at points the film had lots going on, but I just failed to engage or be exhilarated by it. Even in the height of the action, and sometimes gore, my feelings of shock only lasted for a brief moment. I think this is because the film’s unique style had actually desensitised me to such a point that; although things were shocking, they had no lasting emotional effect on my state of mind.
My Rating- 6/10
At points, this film is a lot of fun. The style is smart and engaging, the characters do good job at drawing the audience in and it works as a film. However, the fact it is so overlong really detracts from my good nature towards it. I felt I was misled by too many narrative sub-plots and just failed to engage at pivotal moments in the drama. It is with a heavy heart that I give it a 6 but it is the rating it deserves.
P.S. For those who have seen the film- Was the Vietnam war interlude really necessary? I mean I liked the concierge’s character; but this section of his backstory was too flippantly hinted at to mean anything. Or is that just me?
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2 thoughts on “‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ Film Review”
I personally fully enjoed this film and I understand your problems but I love how it felt like a long episode of black mirror and how everything came together at the end. Also I wanted to say that I saw the vietnam flashback as showing the pain he has been through and how even though he survived he didn’t feel like he deserved it and when he is told he doesn’t need to kill that means a lot to him because he had never had that choice in the past. That’s just how I felt but I really enjoyed your review even though I personally liked it more than you did.
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Thank you for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I hadn’t really thought of that sequence like that until now and I guess that is what the film is trying to convey but it just didn’t come across to me. I’m glad you enjoyed the film and I can see why because in parts it had real promise. Thanks again for reading,