It’s a great feeling when you go see a film and enjoy it way more than you expected. Bad Times at the El Royale may appear to be a kooky film, but it is a real joy ride to watch. The premise of seven strangers, all with something to hide, meeting up for one crazy night at a run-down hotel with a very dark past should be enough to draw you in. If not, look no further than the fantastic talent that makes up the ensemble. Writer/director Drew Goddard puts some of his most brilliant work on display with El Royale.
Goddard made a lot of great choices in his writing and directing. First and foremost, the style of this film cleverly keeps you engaged and wanting to know more at every twist and turn. The film plays out by showing events from each of the character’s perspectives. The chapter format works brilliantly and adds a lot of suspense to the already heavy script. The format also allows each actor to get their time to shine while fleshing out the important backstory of their respective character. Instead of dumping a ton of exposition at the beginning of the film, Goddard spreads the details out from the start until the very end, creating some deep characters.
The pacing is brilliant and goes from slow burn to crazy action in the blink of an eye. Another great aspect of the film is Goddard’s directing. I don’t think a lot of people realize how well directed El Royale is. Each shot is framed perfectly and in a way to show exactly what you need to see at each moment. With a story that is ever-changing, the directing had to be good to keep the audience entertained. Not only is his directing great, Goddard also delivers yet another well-writen script. He is fantastic at knowing when to add the perfect bit of comedy to lighten the mood and then drop another serious bomb on the characters. Goddard has obviously proved himself before, as he wrote The Martian and executive produces/produced The Good Place, Marvel’s Daredevil, Marvel’s The Defenders, and Lost.
Making the El Royale a period piece also adds to the punch the film packs. From the costumes to the really fantastic set design, El Royale looks amazing. The cinematography and directing are also to thank for a great look. And who can forget the perfect ensemble? Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Lewis Pullman, Cailee Spaeny, Jon Hamm, and Chris Hemsworth provide all sorts of hijinks and fun. All seven members of the ensemble play well off of each other and show off some great acting chops, especially Bridges and Hemsworth. They all make their characters incredibly interesting and do a great job of showing how everyone can skirt the line of good and bad.
All in all, Goddard has made a really great film that probably isn’t getting enough recognition. Putting a twist on the thriller genre is not an easy task, and Bad Times at the El Royale is a great example of a genre-bending film. I could see this film becoming a cult hit one day, and I hope that filmmaking professors show this film to students to see what good directing and writing really looks like. Without giving anything away, this film has some truly crazy moments and a really great, long scene that ends the film with a bang. Bad Time at the El Royale is highly entertaining and is one of the better pieces of filmmaking to recently be released.
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