Director Drew Goddard's thriller/mystery is an examination of morality and how humans often lack it.
Nothing is what it seems in "Bad Times at the El Royale." So buckle up and be prepared for one twisty, trippy ride with unexpected detours at every turn.
The El Royale is a semi-seedy hotel in which the guests check in but few are offered the opportunity to check out. It's strategically located on the California/Nevada border with the state line running through the center of the establishment. Each room has a view, so to speak.
On one particular night in 1969, all of the occupants harbor a dark secret that is revealed, singularly, via flashbacks. They include a priest (Jeff Bridges), a lounge singer (Cynthia Erivo), a salesman (Jon Hamm), a kidnapper (Dakota Johnson) and a hotel employee (Lewis Pullman). Toward the end of the film, Chris Hemsworth enters the picture as a charismatic cult leader.
From the opening scene in which a guy is hiding a bag of money under the floorboards of his hotel room, director Drew Goddard ("Cabin in the Woods) grabs his audience by the throat and never lets them up for air. It becomes quite clear that he's a fan of Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch. Meticulous production design, an incredibly hip score and savvy scripting are allusions which do not go unnoticed.
The performances are gritty, sensational and kitschy (in a good way). Erivo's singing is downright stunning. Bridges' inner calm is reminiscent of The Dude's. And Jon Hamm once again demonstrates his prowess for portraying sleaze-bags. But it's Hemsworth who scene steals with such delicate skill, it really gets under your skin. His dancing to "Hush Hush" will creep you out.
"Bad Times at the El Royale" examines morality and the lack of it in human beings. Goddard doesn't shove any messages down our gullets but, rather slyly slips them into our consciousness. We're allowed to be judge and jury in his crazy good film. And it feels great.