Good news for you if you like a bad time because the Bad Times at the El Royale are downright succulent. This slow-burning drama plays with viewers by drawing out suspense with intricate storytelling that will leave you leaning forward in your seat to see what’s next.
Writer and director Drew Goddard binds his narrative together with a beautiful style of direction that uniquely blends the environment, story, and characters together with gripping scene composition. The El Royale hotel becomes a living and breathing character as the audience gets an intimate sense of its layout and personality even as everything is torn apart. You will be fascinated from the beginning to the end with this strange place that sits on the border between Nevada and California. This location brings out an otherworldly element to events that unfold inside its rooms.
What we’re left with after everything is said and done is a character-driven piece wherein the key players rip each other apart as the location shreds them into each other like a meat grinder pumping out the sweet, sweet sausage of a tight thriller.
Each cut is used to toy with you as a viewer, teasing you with a sharp and important event, then wrapping multiple stories around it from multiple angles before finally revealing the next step in the story. It’s maddening how Goddard drags you along with each and every reveal and fun, twisting turns. Goddard builds this house of narrative structure on a foundation laid with characters portrayed with fantastic actors.
I honestly could not pick a standout from this cast. Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pullman, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Cailee Spaeny, and Chris Hemsworth all absolutely kill it. Every one of them finds the core of their character and brings out something beautiful that you can’t help but get wrapped up into.
The music choice is good, but not amazing, with great tunes that set the time period. If the rest of the film weren’t so excellent I would probably count this as a positive, but with all the other elements of the film reaching such incredible heights, the music is “only” very good.
If I had to ding Bad Times at the El Royale for anything, it would be a lack of thematic resolution. It has things to say, and powerful moments where the characters voice something beautiful, but it just doesn’t run through the entire film, and the end doesn’t feel like it truly resolves anything. And by that, I mean, it doesn’t feel like it has anything to resolve. The characters you think of as the protagonists don’t have their core problems tied directly to the narrative or resolution of the film, leaving everything just a tad hollow.
Overall, this is a great slow burn with a fun punch. Bad Times at the El Royale is easy to recommend to fans of suspenseful drama that is good enough that almost anyone can find something enjoyable in it.
|A tight narrative with a gripping sense of suspense that will keep you on the edge of your seat.