Review Date: 7/4/21
Director: Drew Goddard
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Chris Hemsworth, Nick Offerman
The year is 1969 and the El Royale motel has seen better days. It's a lavish piece of Atomic Age architecture that's split along the California/Nevada border and it holds a fair number of dirty secrets - just like its guests. In a perfect storm of trouble, four strangers arrive on the same night and not all of them will be leaving. Jeff Bridges is excellent as an aging priest with a troubled past and Cynthia Erivo is superb as a struggling singer who has a gig in Reno. Dakota Johnson is extremely sexy as a bad-ass hippie chick and Jon Hamm nearly steals the show as a smarmy salesman who is more than he appears to be. Lewis Pullman gives a gut wrenching performance while Cailee Spaeny is pure chaotic poison that leads to everyone's doom. And that doom is Chris Hemsworth, a power-mad cult leader with a taste for violence and murder.
First and foremost, the cinematography, set design, and art direction are stunning and absolutely gorgeous. It's definitely a crime noir film, and light, color, and shadow play a very important role in the story. The cast is flawless and the characters are interesting and deep. The music is appropriate for the era, and while it plays an important role in the storytelling, it didn't especially click with me. It's a feel-bad movie that quickly spirals out of control, creating an increasing sense of dread and doom. The only criticism I have about the film is that it feels overly long and the the pacing is a bit sluggish, which results in a nagging desire to speed things up. But apart from that, it's a beautiful and engaging thriller with enough surprises to keep you guessing throughout.