Seven strangers, each with a secret to bury, meet at Lake Tahoe’s El Royale, a rundown hotel with a dark past. Over the course of one fateful night, everyone will have a last shot at redemption – before everything goes to hell.
Drew Goddard is primarily known as a writer of cult science fiction, initially cutting his teeth on TV series such as ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ and ‘Lost’ before moving on to cinema with films like ‘Cloverfield’ and his directorial debut in ‘The Cabin in the Woods’. His second film in the director’s chair, ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’, has all the hallmarks, minus the science fiction elements, of his past works, and it’s a ready made cult classic that actually lives up to that predetermined billing.
Taking place in 1969 at a shady, novelty hotel on the California-Nevada border (which already looks dated by this point), the film introduces us to several guests, all of whom are harbouring dark secrets, and the narrative explores the carnage that occurs when these secrets are outed and the guests cross paths with one another. The guests range from a supposed priest to a struggling singer and the plot is split into segments where we follow each character’s backstory and learn the real reason that brought them to the ‘El Royale’, with characters played by the likes of Jeff Bridges, Jon Hamm and Dakota Johnson. I thought this approach worked really well as the individual stories are teased out one by one and it helped that I found all of the characters interesting to follow, and the mysteries that brought them there intriguing. Quentin Tarantino is the obvious touchpoint and his work is a clear influence on the storytelling style Goddard adopts here, and despite a rather chunky 141 minutes runtime, I thought ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ was effortlessly stylish and compulsively entertaining,
Smartly crafted with solid performances from its ensemble cast, ‘Bad Times at the El Royale’ is a stylish thriller that keeps you on your toes with an entertaining narrative that knows when to reveal its secrets and deliver its twists and turns, and I really liked it.
Directed By: Drew Goddard
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Chris Hemsworth, Manny Jacinto, Jim O’Heir, Alvina August and Nick Offerman