“Bad Times at the El Royale” stars Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman, and Chris Hemsworth. Released on October 12, 2018, the film has six strangers staying at a shady hotel on the California-Nevada border.
The film is directed by Drew Goddard, who also directed “The Cabin in the Woods” and wrote screenplays for films like “Cloverfield”, “World War Z”, and “The Martian”. It’s always nice to check into a hotel and get some relaxation every once in a while, whether you’re on vacation or getting ready for a big sports game. When it comes to a hotel that has the words “El Royale” on the sign, however, it’s anything but relaxation. This latest thriller from writer/director Drew Goddard shows exactly what happens when an ordinary stay at a hotel turns into a real-life game of survival. Thrillers have the tendency to get audiences at the edge of their seats, but only if their scripts have enough interest and twists to do so. Will this film be able to continue that trend?
The story is represented in a non-linear narrative, showcasing the characters and their personal secrets or agendas, such as the priest (Bridges) and the singer (Erivo), and how they all meet up in the same roof. By “roof”, I mean the El Royale hotel. Clocking in at a questionable two hours and 20 minutes, Drew Goddard displays a slow-burning, yet well-crafted, thriller that relies on two important things: interesting characters and stylish filmmaking. It’s a fine story to tell, but from my personal perspective, it doesn’t need to be over two hours long to tell this type of plot unless the pacing is good enough to keep the audience’s attention. In this case, the pacing in this film was a hit-and-miss for me. There were some scenes that sort of dragged a little bit, which might not be good for those who were on the verge of falling asleep. It was never boring since the cast did their best to keep the film going, but they could have at least shorten the scenes a little bit so that the pacing feels consistent. Jeff Bridges was solid as always as a priest, and Cynthia Erivo was really talented as Darlene Sweet, a singer who also stays at the hotel, in terms of her acting and her singing. Man, I never realized that she can sing extremely well in this film until now. Chris Hemsworth also did a great job in his role as Billy Lee, a cult leader. This was Hemsworth’s second collaboration with Drew Goddard after working on “The Cabin in the Woods” together six years ago, and his unique performance was the main reason why. I also thought that the set designs for the hotel were brilliant as it captured the look and feel of the late 1960s.
Overall, it’s not as energetic or crazy as some might thought it would be, but “Bad Times at the El Royale” has enough qualities to make you want to check in for the night. Despite its concerning running time and a few pacing issues, I found the film to be quite entertaining mostly due to the talented cast and Goddard’s stylistic direction. I would recommend this one to those who enjoy watching adult-rated thrillers. Just make sure you get enough sleep before you decide to view it.