Circa 1968, several strangers, most with a secret to bury, meet by chance at Lake Tahoe's El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one night, everyone will show their true colors - before everything goes to hell.
Stephanie is a single mother with a parenting vlog who befriends Emily, a secretive upper-class woman who has a child at the same elementary school. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie takes it upon herself to investigate.
In the late 1960s, an aging priest suffering from early onset dementia, a struggling African American female singer, a talkative salesman on vacation and an unfriendly young woman who may or may not be a hippie, arrive by chance on the same day at Lake Tahoe's "El Royale", a once glitzy but now rundown roadside motel lying on the very border between California and Nevada, and operated by a single troubled staff member who holds many dark secrets. Throughout the day, it becomes increasingly clear that almost no one there is exactly who they seem, but things really go from bad to worse in the evening when heavy rain hits and someone much worse than those inside arrives to find "a friend" and bring hell to all those unlucky enough to be there at the time.
Towards the end of the film, several different fires erupt in the lobby of the El Royale due to a scuffle between Father Daniel Flynn and his captor Billy Lee. Yet, Father Daniel and Darlene Sweet spend an inordinate amount of time inside the burning lobby rather than fleeing. The multiple fires in this lobby scene are extremely slow-burning and amazingly well-contained. Father Daniel and Darlene most likely would have had difficulty breathing due to smoke inhalation after being exposed to the indoor inferno for fewer than 5 minutes, yet they choose to remain in the lobby for 10 to 15 minutes. See more »
Good: The time period 1969 provides a great stylistic approach to a hotel that has property on both California and Nevada, which adds to the idea of having a good side and a bad side and the hotel also creates a sense of entrapment. The cinematography is great as it makes slow pans to unveil the secrets of the characters and the El Royale. The hotel, costume design, and soundtrack help create a nostalgic setting. The directing and editing are also well done when incorporating sound/music to scenes especially when Cynthia Ervio sings. Erivo's musical performance is filled with heart and soul and helps develop the character and conveys her emotions. Other standouts are Jeff Bridges and Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth just has a charming presence and provides the slight dark tone of his character. Bridges plays his character well as he connects with Erivo and tries to execute his actions. However, the rest of the cast have trouble making their appearance known...
Bad: At a whopping 2h 20m runtime, the film is a slow burn where it takes a painstakingly long time to make it to the end and even the finale becomes a disappointment. At times it tries to be funny, but the humor is not a standout in this film. There is a lack of emotional pull to the characters which is evident in the finale where the characters are still not fully developed. The concept was there, but the creativity lacked, which ended up in poor execution.
Overall: Style over substance. I wanted to like this movie for the trailer was great with its editing, soundtrack, and cast, but does not live up to Drew Godard's directing predecessor "The Cabin in the Woods," or have the writing creativity from "The Martian." The film reminded me a lot of Quentin Tarantino films as it was divided into chapters and had the same style with flashback stories to gain background, however, I would rather watch "Hateful Eight," or any of Tarantino films that have excellent dialogue and action.
2.9/5 (Not fresh)
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