“Bad Times at the El Royale” might just be the most unpredictable movie to hit cinemas in quite some time. Yes, the acting was spectacular and the dialogue was witty and sharp, but what stood out the most was the utter creativity and unpredictability of the movie. This was like a breath of fresh air considering a lot of big movies nowadays follow a very traditional three-act structure. You can guess what is going to happen beat for beat. However, this movie took your tired hero’s journey template and flipped it on its head. Everything you thought you knew turns out to be false, and every twist comes with a bigger and better pay off.
To describe the story would be something of a task. It is best to go into the movie knowing as little as possible, since telling you any plot point would basically be a spoiler. To generalize, the story follows a group of very different and yet very intriguing characters that all check into a motel called The El Royale. Unbeknown by the others, each of them came to this motel for their own goals and devious plans. These plans, however, end up unraveling and entangling everyone together into a murderous and mysterious plot that will keep throwing curve balls at you after every other scene.
This film challenges what the screenwriter knew you would expect to see, by presenting certain scenarios and situations as one way, but then completely curtails those expectations by going entirely left of field. This is done so in a smart way. No twist ever feels cheap or unearned. In fact, upon second viewing, the film would probably take on a whole new meaning. This makes the film incredibly interesting to watch and will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The acting should also be commended. The film stars powerhouse actors such as Dakota Johnson, Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cynthia Erivo and Lewis Pullman. This is truly an ensemble film so everyone, more or less, gets the same amount of screen time. What happens when you get together some of Hollywood’s greatest actors in what is a very character-driven film is nothing short of magical. The action of the plot derives mainly from the dialogue that exists between characters. Everyone gets a monologue…or two…or five…or twenty. This may sound drab, but the writing is so well done that it only makes you more invested in the characters, instead wanting to tune them out. It is easy to care about every single character, even when that person may be genuinely terrible.
The film really takes its time in the beginning. In the first act, it was not quite clear what the movie wanted to be. It did move slowly and it was hard to grasp what exactly the film was trying to achieve by introducing all of these different characters. Then when the first curveball hits, you’re officially hooked for the rest of the film. You can’t look away and you can’t stop theorizing about what will happen next.
For this reason, if you are really looking for a good mystery/thriller for this Halloween season I highly recommend seeing this film. It’s very smart and doesn’t feed everything to you all at once. So, if you want to be intellectually stimulated and jaw-droppingly surprised then go so “Bad Times at the El Royale,” in theaters now.