Shifting from horror satire ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ writer Drew Goddard checks back into cinemas with new neo-noir mystery thriller ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’. His latest film marks only the second time that he has taken on both writing and directing duties but sees him reunite with Chris Hemsworth after their work together on his directorial debut. The film follows the guests and staff of the El Royale hotel, a shady bunch with plenty to learn about each other but would audiences be leaving a five star rating after their stay in this cinematic establishment?
Goddard presents a fascinating collection of characters here and he’s assembled a mighty fine cast to portray them including the likes of Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson and the aforementioned Hemsworth. The big names provide a wonderful screen presence and deliver what you’d expect of them and in Hemsworth’s case maybe not what you’ll be expecting with a character presenting the actor with a new challenge, but one which he rises to brilliantly. Arguably the most established of the huge cast is acting alumni Jeff Bridges who plays priest Father Flynn. It’s one of Bridges best and most interesting roles in recent years, allowing him a plethora of screen time and a real chance to show off his acting chops. However it might just be the lesser known performers who ultimately end up stealing the show. Youngster Lewis Pullman is great as the hotel’s concierge and British theatre star Cynthia Erivo really impresses, especially considering her surrounding cast and that this is the first time audiences will have seen her on the silver screen! Erivo’s character, Darlene Sweet, is a struggling singer and as a result Erivo gets the chance to flaunt her vocal talents on more than one occasion wonderfully enhancing the narrative in a truly unique way and consequently the audiences experience.
The characters are a joy to watch and they are complimented even more so thanks to the fact that they inhabit such a well constructed and intriguing narrative. The story is great but what’s more impressive is how it’s told. Obviously taking influence from the style of the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Goddard puts his intriguing range of characters to work in a non-linear method of story telling creating a thoroughly engaging piece of cinema. Audiences should be aware of the long running time the film has as the first act is undeniably slow moving. Whilst it will be too slow for some, for those willing to stick with it this allows for them to take in the rich style of the film and become blissfully comfortable with the story giving the thrilling narrative developments far more impact when they do arrive. Most of these occur in act two which sees the majority of the characters and plot threads overlap in an extremely satisfying fashion. The final act doesn’t disappoint, continuing the momentum of what has come before it. It presents some troublesome narrative elements which may prove hard to process but simultaneously it creates a completely absorbing finale which should leave those who have bought into the narrative hanging on every single word and feeling utterly indifferent to the on-going run time.
Intrigue, shock, tension, disgust, sympathy and suspense are only some of the many things this refreshingly original screenplay will make you feel. With ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ Drew Goddard cements himself as one of the most skillful, inspired and exciting writers working in Hollywood today and firmly makes his mark as a directing talent too. ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ is nothing but a great time at the local multiplex and certainly one cinematic establishment that audiences will want to frequent again and again.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 9/10
Question: What is your favourite Drew Goddard screenplay?
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Thanks to Movie House Cinemas for screening access