Bad Times at the El Royale Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

America, late sixties. Several people arrive at the almost abandoned El Royale Hotel, located near Lake Tahoe on the border of the states of California and Nevada. They are pastor Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), black singer Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), chatty salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm) and hippie-looking girl Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson).

The hotel is empty, there are no other guests in it. There is no one at the reception, and attempts to ring the bell do not lead to any visible effect. In the end, the visitors still manage to call the porter – this is a strange-looking young man named Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman).

Hotel guests receive keys and go to their rooms. And this is just the beginning of their adventure.


Drew Goddard is a well-known screenwriter who has worked on Lost and Daredevil, Monster, World War Z and The Martian.

In 2011, Goddard directed the excellent parody horror film The Cabin in the Woods, which he co-wrote with Joss Whedon.

Bad Times at the El Royale is Drew Goddard’s second film. And it’s done in a completely different style than The Cabin in the Woods. This is not a parody at all, but rather a compilation of several films. Because when several people, each of whom has their own “skeletons in the closet”, get together in a relatively closed space and at the same time start killing each other or someone starts killing them – this has all happened many times, starting with “Ten Little Indians ” Agatha Christie and ending with the same “Hateful Eight” Tarantino. Also, Mangold’s “Identification” immediately comes to mind, where there is also a hotel, also a downpour and also gradually kill everyone.

On the other hand, there are not so many plots on which literary works and films are built, they differ mainly in nuances, and hundreds of beautiful and not very songs, so I do not quite understand the claims of those critics who say about this film that there is nothing original in it, and therefore, they say, in the furnace.

The situation is not original, yes. But the plot itself and how it is delivered – this, in fact, is the whole point. In my opinion, it is well placed. The beginning of the picture is very leisurely, and many blame the director for being too long. I don’t agree with this. On the contrary, I liked the fact that everything started very calmly, but from a certain moment events began to unfold rapidly and there was no trace of slowness left.

Yes, and this hotel on the border of California and Nevada, which divides the hotel into two completely different parts, was invented and shown very cool and stylish. Everything is in order with the style here: the end of the sixties is manifested not only in cars and the manner of dressing, but also in all sorts of events that are quite significant for this era, which are demonstrated in one way or another.

The film is divided into several segments, in each of which the guest of a particular hotel room is shown and the story that led him to this deserted and frightening place is shown in flashbacks.

Some guests, as expected, turn out to be not who they say they are, and behind the shoulders of other characters there are such stories that are difficult to expect at first glance at them.

Acting work – very good, and almost all the characters in the film. Jeff Bridges is amazing as always. Jon Hamm brilliantly portrays a chatty salesman who says all sorts of nasty things to Darlene with a cute smile on his face.

Darlene was played by the famous British singer of Nigerian origin, Cynthia Erivo. By the way, she has already played in the movie – in the idiotic crime thriller “Widows”, where Cynthia herself looked quite decent. Here, her role is perhaps not bad, but she herself sings in the film – and this is already listened to very well, because she is an excellent singer. By the way, music plays a very prominent role in the film, emphasizing the time period, and it is chosen very well. Composer Michael Giacchino, who won an Oscar for the soundtrack to the animated film Up, was responsible for the music here.

Dakota Johnson looked quite convincing in the role of fighting hippie Emily. For some reason, almost all reviewers, speaking about her, mention that she starred in fifty shades of shit, but I didn’t watch this case and, to be honest, I somehow don’t care where she still starred. Looked good here – well, slavnenko.

The character of Chris Hemsworth appears somewhere in the middle of the film, but he is placed on the cover of the disc, so the audience knows that his appearance cannot be avoided. Here he plays the leader of some semi-gangster family-sect. The character isn’t very convincing, but Hemsworth is in a flashback shirtless walking through fields of yellow flowers, so the female audience will certainly be pleased. He didn’t turn out to be an infernal villain, and for some reason I remembered what a stunning psychopathic killer handsome Brad Pitt gave out in “California” – almost immediately after his first notable appearance in “Thelma and Louise”.

Well, let’s note Lewis Pullman – the son of actor Bill Pullman, who played here a strange boy porter. There was a lot of things in store with the guy purely plotwise, but we will not discuss this in order to avoid spoilers. Lewis played quite well, liked it.

Reviews of critics and viewers for this film are quite polar. Some, like me, liked the picture. But others write that this is by no means an event in the cinematic world, that the plot is beaten, that the picture is pretty long, and that Goddard failed to make a worthy ending.

I do not agree with these claims. That it is not an event is not a problem at all: if the film is interesting to watch and it is well staged, then it makes no difference to me whether it is an event or not. It happens that you watch some kind of movie where the director goes out of his way to be original, and after watching you think: “Well, what the hell did I watch all this nonsense at all?” Here everything is done very soundly and looks exciting. Yes, there is a “leaked” moment when the gun, which is worn throughout the second act, in the third act not only does not shoot at all, but, apparently, they simply forgot to load the cartridge into it, but otherwise everything was invented very excitingly.

The only thing is that it was initially clear which character the director would not sacrifice under any circumstances and he was not destined to die on this unkind rainy night in an abandoned hotel, but here it’s just the laws of the genre: after all, this is Hollywood, baby, and not some Norwegian-Danes, God bless them, who will easily kill anyone, because Hollywood rules do not dictate to them.

I liked it, in short, looked not without pleasure. And the production is good, and the plot is not stupid, and the actors are worthy, and the camera work is cool (one scene of the passage without cuts along the known corridor is worth something: it was filmed from the thirtieth take, it is really very, very difficult), and the music is excellent. And what is not original and is not a new word in cinema – well, sometimes you want to see a worthy old word, I have no problems with that. Moreover, they have already got it for a long time with their endless remake, but here it is still a completely independent story. And yes, I liked it more than the rather disappointing “Hateful Eight”, which is really and very long, and has terrible holes in the plot, which Tarantino did not allow himself before.


Bad Times at the El Royale movie meaning

Director: Drew Goddard Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Jeff Bridges, Nick Offerman, Dakota Johnson, Shea Whigham, Cynthia Erivo, Kaylie Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Xavier Dolan

Budget: $32M, Worldwide Grossing: $32M
Thriller, USA, 2018, 141 min.

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