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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Don Cheadle
Sophie Okonedo
Nick Nolte
Joaquin Phoenix
Fana Mokoena
Jean Reno.
Directors
Terry George.
Screenwriters
Keir Pearson
Terry George.
Running Time
122 minutes

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Hotel Rwanda
An Oscar-worthy Cheadle stars in this weighty message movie.


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Plot
Kigali, Rwanda, 1994. When the Hutu president is killed by Tutsi rebels, Hutu extremists take to the streets with machetes, slaughtering every Tutsi they see. Meanwhile, Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) finds the four-star hotel he manages turned into an impromptu refugee camp. Only his quick thinking can keep its 1,200 inhabitants alive.


Review
Sometimes it's a line of dialogue that stays with you. Others, it's a kick-ass set-piece. With Terry George's Hotel Rwanda, it's a single, heart-crushing image: that of prim hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), wearing a spotless suit, his tie perfectly knotted, straight-backed and clutching an umbrella for his leaving guests as the rain pelts down around them. But these guests aren't merely checking out after a relaxing few weeks in Kigali.

They're non-nationals fleeing Paul's country, part of a total foreign withdrawal as Rwanda insanely tears itself apart, leaving Paul, his family and his employees virtually defenceless at the hands of the genocidal, machete-wielding Hutu militia. These people represent Paul's doom. Yet he still shelters them from the rain. Okay, so the symbolism's rather obvious, and it does imply a heavy-handedness on George's part, to which he resorts more overtly elsewhere in the film. But heavy-handedness is frankly forgiveable with this subject matter: in a few months, almost a million people were slaughtered in Rwanda.

This is one of the most intense acts of genocide in human history - and it happened only a decade ago, while most of us in the West, catching the odd news report, dismissed it as 'just a bunch of Africans killing each other again' before flipping channels.

Besides, who cares about overdone orchestral blasts or signpost-waving lines of dialogue when such raw, naked, painful humanity is displayed by Don Cheadle in the central role? The actor transforms from suave schmoozer of generals and militia leaders, to protective family man, to a reluctant saviour who's forever struggling to maintain his fragile composure, all the while sidestepping every histrionic outburst you'd expect.

At his side is fellow Oscar nominee Sophie Okonedo, similarly impressive as his distraught wife Tatiana, while bigger names - Joaquin Phoenix, Nick Nolte - effortlessly energise the smaller roles.

Watching Hotel Rwanda is a deeply humbling experience, and for all the uplift of Paul's Schindler-like achievement, you still feel acute guilt and rage at the fact that the West barely lifted a finger to help the people of a nation that, economically at least, had little to offer us in return. As Nolte's deflated U.N. colonel tells Paul in one scene, "You're not even niggers. You're Africans."


Verdict
It's a weighty message movie, but it's a message worth delivering - and the cast's delivery is flawless.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Hotel Rwanda
Empire Star Rating

Remarkable message thanks to the 7th ART

Not expecting much, and I got a lot. The first time I saw this movie, it was during a geography lesson, and just loved it from that moment. The way Terry George portrays the true massacre is impressive, while tense. Rwanda is very well created and the story too, throughout the film raises several philosophical questions that leave you thinking for a long time. The massacre of Hutus against Tutsis recreated this very well and very real. Don Cheadle is superb, simply embodies his character and d... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ralph25 at 20:39, 09 April 2013 | Report This Post


Affecting, But The Narrative Is Somewhat Linear

Before people start saying, 'but it's a true story!', I am fully aware of this. I'm simply indicating that the actual film doesn't seem to allow for very much character development, and moral messages seem to be hidden amidst a flurry of stylish shots and, frankly, rather amateur production. That said, Hotel Rwanda is still an affecting and distressing affair, but too much care is paid to locations and atmosphere, rather than the important character of Paul ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 11:38, 09 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Hotel Rwanda

Finally got round to watching this today. Empire review is spot on. A film that really needed to be made. It shakes to me the core that this atrocity happened only in 1994 and just how little the west actually did to intervene. A truly fucked up world we live in. A must see. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the anomaly at 18:45, 07 June 2008 | Report This Post


... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by davey_wan at 00:13, 15 August 2006 | Report This Post


Excellent but I had to watch some comedy afterwards to lift my spirits ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Schlamper at 09:41, 06 February 2006 | Report This Post


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