Film review: Bad Times at the El Royale

The year is 1969, The Ritz-Carlton is booked out. You find yourself cruising down a desert highway towards the The El Royale, an establishment that’s twice the hotel with double the stakes. Time to place your bet.

Drew Goddard’s ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ confidently captures the power of choice, chance and circumstance. The film stars names like Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson and Jon Hamm alongside newcomers Cailee Spaeny, Cynthia Erivo, and Lewis Pullman. ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ tells a story of several strangers who are brought together by the swanky confines of the titular establishment. Secrets are unveiled and facades are dropped as pasts are brought into the present. One night is all it takes for paths to cross as all involved get their final shot at a clean slate.

The performances in this feature are riveting, lively, and – when required – downright sinister. Bridges gives a moving performance in his portrayal of Daniel Flynn, giving us glimpses of harrowing truth woven amongst lies. Hemsworth is hypnotizing as the vagabond cult leader Billy Lee. Erivo effortlessly bares her talent, laying bare the strength and spirit of Darlene Sweet. Johnson’s performance as Emily Summerspring is aloof, enticing and marred with a harsh edge, all hallmarks of a girl on the run. Pullman is the dark horse of this film, gifting audiences with the layered complexity of a man tied down by trauma.

Goddard’s vision shines in this film. Razor-sharp movement, buzzing music and colourful visuals breathe life into a narrative that not only compels you to read between the lines but also successfully blurs the line between right and wrong. It’s a work of sheer momentum that reaches new heights in terms of suspense, creating a neo-noir, popcorn thriller that’s punchy in both pace and atmosphere and will see you leaning in with each twist.

‘Bad Times at El Royale’ is one film that will make you feel anything but bad for spending the whole movie’s running time sitting on the edge of your seat.

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