‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ Thrills with Deception

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‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ Thrills with Deception

By Hayden Swanson, Sports Editor

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Bad Times at the El Royale, released on Oct. 12, is a thriller directed by Drew Goddard, who notably directed Cabin in the Woods back in 2011. It stars Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Dakota Johnson, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Cynthia Erivo, and Nick Offerman. Each character shows up one by one and as they all meet and interact with each other, an exciting dynamic begins to play out as they are all revealed to be more than they seem.

The film takes place in the year 1969 and follows seven strangers who all find themselves in an old hotel called the El Royale, located directly on the Nevada-California border. This separates the hotel in half; one side in Nevada and one side in California (which is hilariously $1 more expensive simply because it’s in California). As the day goes on, each stranger is revealed to be much more than they say they are, and the movie bounces back and forth from each character’s perspective, diving into each of their backstories. These strangers include Father Daniel Flynn (Bridges), talented singer Darlene Sweet (Erivo), sisters Rose and Emily Summerspring (Spaeny and Johnson respectively), the southern businessman Laramie Sullivan (Hamm), wicked cult leader Billy Lee (Hemsworth), and Miles Miller (Pullman), who is mysteriously the only employee present at the El Royale. The star power in this movie is incredible, and watching these characters interact and their storylines slowly converge is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film and leads to very interesting dynamics when it comes to presenting what each character is doing during pivotal moments in the story.

Each actor in the film does an amazing job at portraying their character. Despite not sharing nearly as much screen time as other characters, Hemsworth’s Billy Lee steals the show in every scene he’s in, and is very intimidating when compared to other characters who’ve already shown their dark sides. Erivo makes her big screen debut in this movie, and will also star in Widows, set to premiere later this year, and Harriet as the title character in 2019. This movie serves as an excellent introduction to her talent, and her character is easily one of the most compelling characters in the movie. All of the other talent excels; Hamm and Bridges are always a win, Offerman, despite having a minor role in the film, does an excellent job, and a movie like this is definitely something that Johnson needs on her plate right now.

While the plot of the movie and each character is executed very well, the movie does have its fair share of problems. The editing just seemed a little off, and the pacing is all over the place. Occasionally, the movie becomes super suspenseful and exciting, but suddenly cuts to something much more laid back with thrill. Such a thing can take you out of the experience altogether and could’ve been handled much better. Also, the movie at times is just way too quiet. The soundtrack, while occasionally throwing in classics from the ‘50s and ‘60s, is very minimalistic and far from iconic composer Michael Giacchino’s best work. A good soundtrack can either make or break certain scenes, and there are occasionally some sequences that would’ve greatly benefitted from a more powerful score. The movie also begins very slowly and takes a while to gain the right amount of momentum, but when it finally does, it is non stop thrill all the way to the very end. Certain scenes will literally leave you on the edge of your seat. You begin to care for the characters as the movie progresses, and the film is completely aware of this, which means it torments you constantly with the state of their well being. It’s very unpredictable and it’s refreshing.

Bad Times at the El Royale is not a bad film, but it is definitely one worth watching for a thrill ride unlike that in theatres anytime recently. The sad part about the film is that it won’t receive nearly as much attention as it deserves and will likely fall into obscurity within the next couple of years. While it has its flaws and isn’t for the casual, laid-back viewer, Bad Times at the El Royale is worth watching if not for the thrill it provides alone.