The El Royale is a bi-state establishment. A painted red line runs straight through the centre of the car park and right through the centre of reception, leading to a jukebox. One half of this hotel lies in Nevada, the other half in California. The rooms on the California side are a little more expensive because…. well, because it’s California!
A number of guests arrive in reception – Jon Hamm is a vacuum cleaner salesmen, keen to stay in the honeymoon suite, Jeff Bridges is a priest and Cynthia Erivo a singer. They chat a while as they wait for somebody to return to the reception desk so that they can check in. And then another woman arrives, played by Dakota Fanning. She’s not so chatty.
They all head off to their rooms and begin behaving in very different and mysterious ways. One is taking the room apart, removing microphones and phone taps, another is lifting up floorboards, another is singing into the mirror while another is bringing in a body from the boot of a car.
There’s not a lot else that can be said without giving things away but much of the movie is spent exploring each of these characters and what they’re all up to. We go back in time days, even years, exploring their past a little and discovering what brought them all to the El Royale. Stories within the hotel overlap and affect each other, with twists and turns revealing different motives for various people. It’s all very mysterious, very well executed and very enjoyable.
Where I felt the movie falters is in the latter third, with the introduction of Chris Hemsworth. I didn’t really buy into his character at all and that’s when the pacing, the mystery and the enjoyment fell apart somewhat for me. It picks up with a couple more twists and surprises towards the but at 141 minutes, I feel the movie could have easily benefited from losing 20-30 minutes from its run time. Overall though, this was an enjoyable bit of fun.