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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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Texas A&M outfielder Jace Laviolette (17) robs a home run from Florida infielder Cade Kurland (4) in the top of the ninth inning during Texas A&M’s game against Florida at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska on Sunday, June 15, 2024. (Hannah Harrison/The Battalion)
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“Bad Times” is a great film

Bad+Times+at+the+El+Royale
Photo by PROVIDED
Bad Times at the El Royale

An amazingly chaotic film that doesn’t pull any punches, “Bad Times at the El Royale” makes full use of its style and setting. The acting is brilliant, the story is simple but somehow deceivingly complex and the retro matter-of-fact style is thrilling. This film exceeded my admittedly high expectations and made for quite an enjoyable theater experience.

Style is the strongest point in a film full of strengths. Set against the retro art-deco glory of a 1950’s motel past its prime, the movie uses title cards to jump gleefully from one part of the story to the next. As a result, the film can sometimes come across as a little disjointed. That is forgivable, however, when one considers that the plot of the movie tells the individual stories of several unrelated strangers as their lives become intertwined. 

Classic music plays, the vibrant neon set design shines consistently in the background and the dialogue and mannerisms of the characters all serve to give the film a very late 60’s feel. My favorite happens right at the beginning when Jon Hamm, decked out with a southern accent and short tie, meets Jeff Bridges’ and Cynthia Erivo’s characters in the hotel lobby. Hamm launches into a lengthy and very polite explanation of what he was doing just before they came in. It’s the type of scene you just don’t see in most modern films, and it reminded me of all the old episodes of “Columbo” and “Mission: Impossible” I used to watch.

The plot is a carefully woven web of chaos. Each character’s story comes together slowly. The details of the individual’s lives are revealed through flashbacks and narrative until audiences are finally able to piece together a more or less complete picture of everyone involved. The end of the film is not at all what I was expecting at the beginning, but I think that’s a good thing. What sets this movie apart is the interesting and bizarre way it chooses to cobble together a story out of so many unrelated pieces. The only thing most of the characters have in common is one night’s stay at the El Royale, but that alone is enough to make each one a major part of the others’ lives. It really is interesting to watch the plot come together, and to see how certain characters end up being completely different than what they initially seemed.

Besides style and story, the acting of the movie was also quite good. I love Jon Hamm, and he delivered an excellent, if tragically short performance. In addition, Chris Hemsworth played his part very well, and Jeff Bridges gave the best performance of them all. I can’t reveal too much information about their characters without spoiling the film, but its suffice to say they all played their parts brilliantly. Special mention goes to Erivo, a stage actor who comes to the screen with an absolutely phenomenal singing voice. Her voice provides the score to one or two key moments in the film, and it’s hauntingly beautiful. In addition to her singing, Erivo also acted her part very well.

“Bad Times at the El Royale” is a great film. It’s not perfect, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s chaotic, sometimes disjointed, unexpected and thrilling. See it for the style. See it for the story. See it for Bridges, Hamm, Hemsworth and Ervio. There are a million reasons to see this film. I’m not saying it’s the best movie in theaters right now, but it’s certainly not too far off.

 

Keagan Miller is a psychology junior and Life & Arts reporter for The Battalion.

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