A suspense and mystery sub-genre is hard to come by at the moment. Even it’s not that easy for the director or writer. However, the writer and director of “The Cabin in the Woods” came with his Tarantino-like movie, “Bad Times at the El Royale”. The movie starts with a prologue and a nice set. It starts with something promising. A shot inside a room in a motel. A man wearing a raincoat with his bloodied arm carrying a bag full. Jump-cut continues, the man moves pieces of furniture in the room. While rolling a carpet, lift floorboards, and put a bag under the floor. Just wait and wait. Then, a man came and killed him. That’s when a title card said ‘Ten Years Later’.
A sunny day to start the film. We also get a little information about the bag that was hidden under the floor. We know the place as El Royale, a unique motel full of colors. Apart from a sunny day, there is nothing special especially for Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman). The motel is also right on the border of California and Nevada which divided in two. The motel was once crowded but suddenly turned very quiet. There is a conspiracy, maybe, and just a few people come to this place.
Jon Hamm as Laramie Seymour Sullivan is the first guess. He tried repeatedly to contact the hotel receptionist. However, no one answered the call. Alternately, Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo) come together. The purpose of the three of them is the same, in general, namely staying in that place. Behind it all, they each have different desires but some hide each other’s facts. There is Darlene who just wants to make her career climb as a singer. Father Daniel Flynn who wants to find the bag. Sullivan is a salesman but not an ordinary person.
While Sullivan was a secret agent, he had to hide a secret belonging to state officials stored in that place. A variety of surprises came to him including a secret room and an unreasonable secret passage. Other stories include Flynn’s past, where he is a bank robber. He has a connection between the man shown at the prologue. However, he died miserably. Dakota Johnson as Emily Summerspring then came in to make the story more complex. The plot then links her flashback with Cailee Spaeny as Rose Summerspring and Chris Hemsworth as Billy Lee.
“Bad Times at the El Royale” has a great uniqueness besides this film very, very inspired by Quentin Tarantino. This film takes on big names like Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, and Lewis Pullman. Those big names then portray different characters which are certainly not easy. Drew Goddard, in addition, is able to characterize these characters into more interesting levels. Non-linear plot character recognition with its narrative has more flashback and plot with its own senses. Various twist waits for us but for two more hours, I don’t think it’s one of the right choices.
This film has many diverse, complex plots, and also a quite predictable twist. In accordance with the genre, this film is filled with blood. I thought this would be QT with the witty dialogue. But, it goes on and on then goes down. A cut to flashback is like for example when our momentum temporarily rises. That makes the atmosphere down while the characterization of each character is not too much highlighted. Like for example Billy Lee who just came in the last arc. In fact, I thought he was the most interesting character here.
Of course, this is one mind-blowing film with a classic style of packaging. Aside from surprises from one character to another, this film uses a 70s background. A television clip of Richard Nixon explains the nature of guerilla warfare ‘ceasefire’ in Vietnam. Besides Richard Nixon, vintage music is the right composition for each opening scene. Jeff Bridges as a great actor could no doubt. However, Cynthia Erivo and Cailee Spaeny played their roles well. Lewis Pullman also plays his character as a war veteran in Vietnam.
This film has so many plots that are quite numerous, diverse, and so complex. It then made the film a little forced. Almost all of the character backgrounds are not well built and not full of details. Jon Hamm as Dwight Broadbeck, in my opinion, is one of the unique characters too. It’s just that, his role is so little. Behind it all, “Bad Times at the El Royale” is a suspense spectacle of a roulette wheel. 140-minute running time sometimes too long. “The Hateful Eight” is even more interesting despite its rather long running time. But, it’s more enjoyable.
3.5 out of 5 stars.