From the moment I saw the first trailer for Bad Times at the El Royale, I could tell that we would be in for something awesome. For your reference, I’m specifically talking about this trailer: Bad Times At The El Royale Trailer
Bad Times at the El Royale is about seven strangers, who are all more than they appear
who all just happen to arrive at the El Royale Hotel on the same night. Over the course of the night, with a storm raging on outside, everybody’s secrets are revealed and the consequences are fatal.
Drew Goddard has struck gold with his script. The last time I watched a film that well written was probably last years The Florida Project (not that these two pictures are similar). With a story set up reminiscent of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, Bad Times holds your attention with beautifully interlaced stories. Each character’s story is unique, no two the same. So when everything begins to unravel, it’s pretty spectacular.
The set design is unbelievable. You feel completely immersed in the 1960s, the film taking place in 1969, roughly. Detail was paid close attention to, with everything from the wallpaper to the kinds of cups and cabinetry used. I was blown away.
Music plays an important role throughout the film, from one of the characters pursuing a singing career to the juke box constantly being used in the lobby of the hotel. Combine that with the set design and it’s like we’re all living in the 1960s at the El Royale.
This cast works well together, in particular Cynthia Erivo and Jeff Bridges. They play off each other remarkably well. Chris Hemsworth plays off of everybody perfectly, as does John Hamm. The only weak link, I would say, is Dakota Johnson (and this may be bias of
me). It felt more like she was just reciting lines. There never really seemed to be any emotion behind what she was saying. So, that was frustrating because everybody else in the cast is so strong. At the same time, thankfully everybody else is so strong, because it pretty much just cancels out her performance. The film is still good, in spite of her. This truly is an ensemble piece, and it’s one hell of an ensemble.
The action that happens in this film takes you by surprise, not because you’re not expecting it, but because it is so well timed with the tension in the film. I can’t recall another film (that’s not a horror film) that builds up tension the way that this one does. It also helps that you are invested in these characters. You want to know who they are, you want to know what their deal is, so when something happens to one of them, man, does it get you.
Goddard’s directing of this film, oddly enough, doesn’t remind me of his directing of Cabin in the Woods (which is a film that I adore). His style here is so vastly different, and I find it refreshing. Every frame is set up with a purpose. Framing is taken into consideration starting from the opening shot of the hotel room and continues throughout, especially when we get to the two-way mirror shots. Every shot was intentional. Every single one. It’s incredible.
This is, by far, one of the best films I have seen all year. I want everybody to see it because I just want to talk about it all the time. So, drop what you’re doing, and go to your nearest theater that is showing this film and give them your money. Bad Times at the El Royale is fun, entertaining, the writing is some of the best, the performances are solid, and you’ll love every minute of it.