The intertwining of character and plot brings an exciting flavour to a period film with huge appeal
There is so much to adore about Drew Goddard’s Bad Times At The El Royale. A well thought out and powerful take on a mystery story, with a great setting and an enchanting cast. Deep characters and a grand twisting story, the film is perfect for a modern audience, obsessed with arching and character filled television stories. Endless qualities embrace every corner of the production, and genuinely this is a film with all the appeal it should have.
Darlene (Cynthia Erivo) and Doc (Jeff Bridges) arrive at the El Royale motel simultaneously, unsure of what exactly lies ahead of them. Joining Dwight (John Hamm) and Emily (Dakota Johnson) in staying the night, the group become acquainted as they choose to sleep in either California or Nevada, with the state boundary splitting the hotel down the middle. But as the night draws out they each become embroiled in unpredictable events out of each of their control, spiralling their night into one they will never forget.
Rarely do films with a large and star-studded cast manage to integrate the characters into the story in the way they should. It’s obviously a difficult task, even when the cast number doesn’t reach the heights of a television programme such as Game Of Thrones. But this extreme limitation on the time available to enable each character a chance to express their own thoughts and ideologies is a real obstacle many films cannot pass. Bad Times is a huge exception, and with the blend of the perfect number of characters and a serious love for showing off each of their personalities at a sensical pace makes for brilliant watching.
These characters, played by an array of Hollywood’s finest, are not just well crafted, but expertly placed into a wildly mysterious story. Throughout Bad Times the intertwining of character and plot brings an exciting flavour to a period film with huge appeal. It is clear that the ‘character-story-period’ combination makes this appeal particularly enjoyable, with each element offering a varied style of thrill.
The motel itself, not too dissimilar to that of The Grand Budapest, is a streamlined 70’s delight, giving a thrilling cross border vibe and a yearn for the nostalgia of the building. Mix this with the expressive characters, and the ability to combine their personalities for volatile confrontations opens up. Leaving the story, leading to a crescendo, to become a twisting fight between the motel’s past and its questionable future.
If it weren’t for the final 10 minutes, Bad Times At The El Royale would be a perfect watch. A unique blend of everything a mystery period drama needs with added flair, it is absolutely a must watch. There is almost definitely a scrabble to tie loose ends, and a lack of cohesion because of that, but don’t let it distract from the rest of the film. This is a brilliant, personalised, piece of film making which makes waves into a style of creation that has been trialled many times across film’s expansive history, with the result rarely coming out looking as good as this.
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