Six strangers with secrets converge on a shady motel.
Elizabeth Best says: If Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson and Alfred Hitchcock had a movie baby, this would be it. Add in a sassy soundtrack, six strangers and an empty motel and you’ve got yourself one hell of a tense and thrilling party. The cinematography here is gorgeous, making good use of both Anderson-style colour palettes and shot symmetry, while the Hitchcockian technique of showing the audience what the characters don’t know ratchets up the tension. So where does Tarantino come in? It’s the vibe. Go into this film knowing as little about plot as possible. You’ll thank me later. 8.6/10
Anthony Sherratt says: My initial reaction was that the movie felt like Tarantino with wonderful restraint but that’s not a fair comparison as this film is more than that. Amazing cinematography, great performances and a wonderful narrative style all bolster an intelligent yet quirky story that never lets the viewer fully settle. Its non-formulaic adherence genuinely leaves you unsure of what will happen next and a delightfully slow – almost metronomic – pacing delivers some rich and riveting characterisation. Avoid even the trailers – just see it. 8.8/10
Peter Linning says: The opening shot of Bad Times at the El Royale sets the tone for the whole film – it’s going to be mysterious as hell, and you’re going to love it the whole time. Set in 1969, the movie is a twisty noir thriller that follows a collection of strangers that find themselves staying in the eponymous El Royale, each with hidden agendas or shady pasts. The ensemble cast is consistently great, and the soundtrack (provided by the hotel’s jukebox) is a perfect backdrop to the stylish visuals. It’s slick, smart, dark fun, and I never had any idea what was coming next. 9/10
James Tinniswood says: If you thought The Hateful Eight felt a bit crowded and wished it was in rain rather than snow, well, here you go. Even the title sounds like it could be an unused chapter from Kill Bill. But superficial Tarantino comparison aside, this is a fun, tense, shockingly violent flick to see with as little knowledge of the plot as possible.
I really loved the look of this movie too – the motel looks equally hideous and beautiful, which fits the narrative perfectly. The performances (Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, John Hamm, Chris Hemsworth etc) are great all around, but relative newcomer Cynthia Erivo is the standout. Clever and effective use of music too, especially You Can’t Hurry Love.
I will stay on the California side. 8/10