Directed by Terry George.
Written by Keir Pearson and Terry George.
Starring Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin Phoenix and Nick
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 1/25/05
I had a freebie to go check out "Hotel
Rwanda" back in September, but never had the chance to make it over
to the flickhouse. I recently had the chance to finally check
this thing out, and damn, it was worth the wait.
"Hotel Rwanda" tells the story of Paul
Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a cautious hotel owner that has come to
a place of power in his native Rwanda by using his power in the
services industry to make all friendly-like with local politicians,
touristy rich guys, diplomats and army officials. All is sunny
in the world in the early '90s when revolt strikes Rwanda--Tutsis
and Hutus are REALLY not getting along, to the tune of a genocide
that leaves piles of corpses throughout the Rwandan countryside.
When Tutsis fleeing the strife of Hutu rebels seek refuge, Paul
decides to use his extra space to house as many of the Tutsis as he
can...and, well, things get just plain hellish from there as Paul
tries to save the lives of his fellow countrymen.
I'll admit--"Hotel Rwanda" taught me a lot,
because my recollection of the 1994 genocide depicted here is quite
fuzzy. But, by giving us just one angle to the slaughter,
director Terry George (who also wrote "The Boxer" and
"Hart's War") gives us a great movie
that could be a docudrama or it could just be a made-up-war
drama...it didn't really matter to me, because as a movie, its power
doesn't necessarily draw from the fact that we know these events to
be real. Just watching innocent people in danger from the
get-go makes the whole damned thing super-tense, and the mix of
quiet moments between Paul and his wife Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo,
like Cheadle nominated for an Oscar) with edge-of-my-seat moments
like an attempted transport by U.N. soldiers to get Tutsis from the
hotel to the Tanzania border...wow. I found myself wondering
how crazy it must have been to be vacationing anyplace where tragedy
suddenly erupts, be it a genocide or a tsunami or anything
in-between. Then, as you watch Paul during a sequence where he
is separated from Tatiana and their children, you wonder what a man
goes through as he tries to balance saving the lives of hundreds and
saving the lives of his core family members.
I remember the first time I saw Cheadle in a
film; that was "Devil in a Blue Dress", the great Denzel Washington
movie based on a series of books by Walter Mosley. As Mouse,
he was just plain bipolar--the cool, easy-going partner in one
scene, the volatile, trigger-happy partner in the next. But,
he was electric, and you just knew that any minute, he was going to
blow up in bigger parts. And, he has, but somehow he has never
been given a chance to be The Man, the lead actor in a movie of some
significance, but "Hotel Rwanda" is it and Cheadle delivers the
goods in every way. I don't think he has the looks or the
charisma for any kind of Denzel-like career boost, but it would be
nice to see Cheadle get more lead parts because he can carry a movie
with quiet energy and nuanced character acting without a problem.
All of the acting in "Hotel Rwanda" is
solid; support from Nick Nolte as a U.N. soldier is great, and bit
cameos by Jean Reno and Joaquin Phoenix are solid as well. The
pace is slow at times, especially early on, as I fought to stay
awake at times for brief stretches where the drama is really bled
dry or when Paul or assorted bit characters wax somewhat poetic
about the state of the world. It's necessary in a film like
this, and I was glad that the film wasn't too preachy; we get an
excellent assessment of Rwanda and its political state through the
main plotline, not through some of the side conversations that can
make political dramas sorely drawn out. We are also thankfully
not given much in the way of voice-over from Paul or any of the
other major players.
I'm not sure how "Hotel Rwanda" got passed
over by "Sideways"
or "Ray" for the Best
Picture Oscar, two good movies that don't resonate like "Hotel
Rwanda" does. But, the acting in this film is so good that you
need to see this film at your soonest opportunity. Not
perfect, but still a powerful addition to the year's library.
Rating: $9.50 Show
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Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard