Time: 141 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence & offensive language
Jeff Bridges as Daniel Flynn
Cynthia Erivo as Darlene Sweet
Dakota Johnson as Emily Summerspring
Jon Hamm as Seymour ‘Laramie’ Sullivan
Cailee Spaeny as Rose Summerspring
Lewis Pullman as Miles Miller
Chris Hemsworth as Billy Lee
Nick Offerman as Felix O’Kelly
Director: Drew Goddard
The El Royale is run-down hotel that sits on the border between California and Nevada. It soon becomes a seedy battleground when seven strangers — a cleric (Jeff Bridges), a soul singer (Cynthia Erivo), a traveling salesman (Jon Hamm), two sisters (Dakota Johnson, Cailee Spaeny), the manager and the mysterious Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) — converge on a fateful night for one last shot at redemption before everything goes wrong.
I had been hearing about Bad Times at the El Royale for a while. I heard of the cast, with Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm and Chris Hemsworth among others. However, what really got my interested was when I heard that Drew Goddard was writing and directing this. Goddard on top of writing Cloverfield and The Martian, also directed and co-wrote The Cabin in the Woods. I was interested to see how this movie would be with this cast and director. I actually ended up liking Bad Times at the El Royale a lot more than I thought I would. With its killer cast, twisty story and writing, I really dug it and I was on board with it from start to finish.
Like with The Cabin in the Woods, Bad Times at the El Royale is better experienced when you know as little as possible. The movie for a lot of it is split up into different sections, for example a title card saying ‘Room 1’ would come up and then it would focus on that character in that room and their backstory. Because of this structure, this will lead to some find the movie to drag and I can see why some people would feel that way. It’s just what comes from having this kind of structure, personally it didn’t bother me at all, the pacing was fine enough for me. Every character has their own story and the movie finds some way of tying it all together. There are some questions that aren’t entirely answered, some of them are purposely left ambiguous, but I feel like there are some other answers that I would’ve liked to have seen. I will say that it does get better more you think about it, as there are some connections in the movie that I didn’t pick up until the following day. Bad Times at the El Royale is a long movie at 2 hours and 20 minutes long but as I said I never felt bored throughout its running time.
As previously mentioned, this movie has a great cast and all of them bring their A game to their roles. We have Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Lewis Pulman, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny and even a little bit of Nick Offerman, all great. With almost all of them we get to see things about their characters (although I would’ve liked to have seen a little more of Jon Hamm). Jeff Bridges gives a pretty great performance as a priest who doesn’t seem like much of a priest. Bad Times is Cynthia Erivo’s big screen debut and she’s a Tony Winning actress and singer, she’s really great here. She’s probably the most trustworthy and likable character out of the main cast and she does really well here. I can’t wait to see her in this year’s Widows. Lewis Pullman is also quite good, as someone who pretty much runs everything in the hotel. He doesn’t seem like much at first but he really ends up being a real surprise. You don’t see a massive amount of Chris Hemsworth till like the last act but he steals the show when he’s on screen, its quite a different role for him, with him being a cult leader and he absolutely pulls it off.
Drew Goddard’s direction is very stylish and great, really working for the movie. At the same time it’s not so stylish that it’s self indulgent or distracts from the rest of the movie, its just at the right level. The cinematography, lighting, the set design and the use of music is great, you really feel (for the most part) like you’re with these characters just around this hotel with a late 60s vibe.
I had a lot of fun with Bad Times at the El Royale. It’s an entertaining mystery thriller, with a talented cast delivering great performances and has some really nice surprises throughout. It might not end up being for everyone, it does have a slower pace and I kind of wished it had some more surprises and answers but it really worked well for me.