"Bad Times at the El Royale" is a kaleidoscopic thrill ride that balances suspense, dark humor, and emotional depth. Set in the late 1960s, the film takes us to the El Royale hotel, a once-glamorous establishment now past its prime, where a group of strangers converge for a night that turns out to be anything but ordinary. Each guest has a secret, and as the night unfolds, those secrets start to intertwine in unexpected and often violent ways.
Director Drew Goddard, known for his work on "The Cabin in the Woods," masterfully plays with genre conventions, combining elements of thriller, crime, and drama. The film is designed like a puzzle, with each piece revealing a little more about the overarching narrative. Goddard employs a non-linear storytelling technique that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, eager to see how these disparate threads come together.
The cast delivers uniformly strong performances. Jeff Bridges stands out as Father Flynn, an aging priest with a murky past, while Cynthia Erivo shines as Darlene Sweet, a struggling singer who proves to be more perceptive than she initially appears. Chris Hemsworth is particularly captivating as Billy Lee, a charismatic and menacing cult leader.
Beyond its compelling story and strong performances, the film also impresses on a technical level. The production design meticulously recreates the era, and the cinematography makes effective use of shadows and reflections to add to the film's mysterious atmosphere. Michael Giacchino’s haunting score perfectly complements the movie's tone, providing an additional layer of tension.
However, "Bad Times at the El Royale" may not be for everyone. Its deliberate pacing and intricate plotting require close attention, and the film doesn't shy away from violent and disturbing content. Moreover, its multiple storylines might not all resonate equally with every viewer.
Still, if you're in the mood for a complex, stylish thriller with plenty of twists and turns, "Bad Times at the El Royale" is a cinematic journey worth embarking on. It's an engaging and atmospheric film that rewards viewers with its intricate storytelling and rich character development.