Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson, Cailee Speeny, Chris Hensworth and Cynthia Erivo lead an all-star cast in Bad Times At the El Royale a thriller about seven individuals whose lives change forever after staying one evening at the El Royal, where their paths interweave in the most unexpected ways.
By far the most underrated film of 2018, Bad times is a smart and incredibly well-crafted thriller that tells its story in a unique way by giving us clues as the film goes along about why these people are staying at the hotel. Each of their stories are told through flashback form and each have a very specific reason of staying at the El Royale, which rests on the direct line of the California/Nevada border.
The story is captivating, tightly written and wholly original. The script feels fresh and the characters are extremely well developed and fleshed out and they all feel like real people, who are all dealing with problems of their own. The way this film plays out their stories and shows us each character’s perspective is so refreshing and original. The film is a thriller at its core and also a mystery and it leaves you guessing until the end. The plot is filled with twist and turns and surprises and something happens in the second act that totally caught me by surprise.
Every performance is top notched in the film. Jeff Brides is better than he has been in a long time. Chris Hensworth, although not in the movie a lot, clearly looks like he’s having a good time with his role. Dakota Johnson is wonderful and gives so much subtle performance by just her facial expressions. Cailey Speeny is also very good as Dakota Johnson’s sister who is here for more sinister reasons. John Hamm is as charming as ever and his role is extremely important in the first act of the film. Which leads me to the scene-stealer; Cythia Erivo, who plays an inspiring singer. She is the best part of this film. First of all, she sings incredibly well and she gives the most memorable performance in a cast full of talented performers. She out-stages everyone in this film and I can’t wait to find out what she does next.
As for flaws, the film is a tad bit too long. It could have maybe been shaved off ten or fifteen minutes, but then again, I’m not sure what you can shave off. Everything is important. Every line of dialogue means something. So while it is a long movie, I can’t see any parts of this film that weren’t needed. Also, almost everything in this film is explained, except one, which revolves around the contents on a film. That’s all I’m gonna say. They don’t say what it is, but clues are given throughout the film if you pay attention and you’ll know why that certain film is important to the narrative.
Overall, Bad Times At the El Royale is a great thriller with powerhouse performances, great dialogue, well-developed characters and an interesting premise that keeps you guessing until it’s jaw-dropping finale.