Bad Times at the El Royale boasts a similar set up to The Cabin in the Woods - Drew Goddard's debut picture following his fantastic screenwriting for Cloverfield. In the trailers it's suggested that the El Royale secretly spies on its guests from behind mirrors, however this seemingly huge plot device turns out to be a sneaky red herring. Seven strangers meet at a run down motel straddling the California and Nevada state line, and through the course of the night the El Royale's dark past begins to unfold.
Shuffling its cards from start to finish, this pulp fiction film noir will keep you ever so tightly wrapped around its finger. Oozing late 60's nostalgia Goddard's unyielding, multi-perspective screenplay could have come unstuck by a fiendishly convoluted plot but is ultimately brought home by an exciting roster of some incredible characters. With visuals that pop, dialog that fizzles, and razor-sharp editing guaranteed to keep your teeth firmly clenched - in contrast to the title there are plenty of great times at the El Royale.
Its swish, pre-seventies style is delivered through inventive camerawork and precise cuts. The opening sequence, composed entirely of jump-cuts, deviously sucks you into the narrative. The danger signs lie alongside the road to the El Royale but you just can't resist to drive further forward and check-in. Goddard has a knack for immersing the audience in a gloomy world that's happy moments are very few and far between - his engaging screenplay and crafty direction keeps cinemagoers thirsty for more. Whether it's the gorgeously vibrant colour pallet contrasting with the dark mood of the film noir content, or the fact that his scenes are as rich in style as they are substance - all of the filmmaking elements piece together in yet another excellent outing for Goddard.
Even though it contains a handful of loose-ends and subtle, hinted at explanations, Bad Times at the El Royale flaunts the most inventive and ambitious screenplay of 2018. With seven different perspectives weaving into one narrative, Bad Times divides into sections yet somehow maintains its very tense and forboding atmosphere. Possessing the racy style of a Tarantino flick but with Goddard's manipulative imprint it covers a lot of ground in a lot of time, yet it doesn't feel like long enough.
Yet this twisted tale wouldn't click together it weren't for Bad Times' simply magnificent characters. The ever so charming Jon Hamm and the f***you giving Dakota Johnson are two intriguing personalities - but its the oldest and newest additions to the cast that really give the film its sweet and sour taste. Jeff Bridges grumbles through his folksy persona as the shady Father Flynn, but has very touching interplay with Cynthia Erivio's struggling back-up singer. Lewis Pullman's jittery, disturbed bell boy Miles is squeezed through the ringer with one of the toughest back stories, and delivers one of the film's greatest twists.
The El Royale is a quirky set piece that breathes something new into the age old themes of morality and redemption. The guests have a choice to stay in either sunny California or, Nevada the state of hope and prosperity. The line running through the motel seems to symbolise the split between good and evil, the positioning of the guests rooms hinting at their characters and outcomes. An inventive piece of twisty film noir with engaging characters, various long takes and sharp edits - Bad Times at the El Royale is vibrant, perplexing and well worth a second visit.
Bad Times at the El Royale:
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Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.