Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Joaquin
Phoenix, Nick Nolte
Director: Terry George
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 122 Minutes
Release Date: April 12, 2005
cannot leave these people to die."
When a film is able
to produce an effect of such deep sorrow, there is no questioning its importance
and its demanding of an audience's complete attention. Hotel
Rwanda is such a film. Watching it produced two effects on me; one was the
awareness that I was witnessing before me a most passionate piece of filmmaking,
the other was that of shame resulting from the near-global ignorance of the
events which the film depicts.
The film has been
compared to Schindler's
List, and truth be told, director/co-writer Terry George's film should be
considered equal in every aspect to Spielberg's masterwork. One distinction
between the two films is the fact that the events in this film are lesser known
than that of the Holocaust. Granted, I was a much younger individual, and just
beginning high school, during the mid-90s, but I simply can't help but fell
shameful to discover that our country, along with most of the world, ignored
what was going on in Africa during this time.
That's why Hotel
Rwanda serves a much stronger purpose. It's to remind us all of one of the
most horrific events to ever occur, and that awareness can emerge from those who
see it. For all we know, such an incident could ignite again...there's simply no
telling. In some ways, such conflicts are still going on as we speak.
The film presents a
stirring account of a frenetically increasing war amongst two clashing African
races; the Hutu and the Tutsi. The year is 1994, and the number of senseless
slaughters is escalating. Hutu extremists are in control of Rwanda, and their
primary goal is to rid the land of any and all who are Tutsi.
Caught in the
middle of the bloody conflict is Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), the manager of
Kigali's five-star, Hotel Milles Collinese. Paul, himself, is a Hutu and happens
to be happily married to a Tutsi, Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), so the massacre to
him seems ultimately senseless. He sees no other choice but to provide safe
haven to the thousands of Tutsi women and children, all the while using his
business ethics to prevent further tragedy from occurring.
There is U.N.
representation in the form of Col. Oliver (Nick Nolte). Despite his best efforts
to alert superiors for some kind of intervention, he is largely ignored and must
do what he can on his own. He has been rendered totally helpless, but vows to
keep the peace.
reporters are also on hand to document as much of the atrocities as possible.
One of them, Jack (Joaquin Phoenix), honestly feels that no matter what
disturbing footage makes it to broadcast news, the American public will largely
ignore the situation. He states to Paul very plainly, "If people see this
footage, they'll say ‘oh my god, that's horrible' and then go on eating their
What is so amazing
to note about Paul Rusesabagina is the methods he goes to in order to save the
many lives he did. He basically saved lives by putting his duties as a hotel
manager to good use. Paul bargains with the Hutu armies. He provides them with
endless amounts of beer and good-quality cigars. When supplies run out, he then
turns to money to keep them satisfied. These gestures quickly elevate to that of
pure deception. There's no doubt in my mind that any one of us would turn to
such actions, if we were given the means, had we'd been in Paul's shoes.
List before it, Hotel Rwanda does
drive home the horror and sadness of the events depicted. Despite a PG-13
rating, there's no question that it limits were tested in a number of downright
effective scenes. A sequence where Paul slips and falls into a ditch filled left
and right with dead bodies is perhaps one of the most emotionally shattering
moments in any movie. We are right there with him and are shocked, as he is, to
see that any such act could be committed by any human, let alone any race.
In the lead role,
Don Cheadle delivered what was truly one of the great performances of 2004, if
not THE BEST. I was most happy to see the countless recognition he received for
his extraordinarily human performance, in the form of an Oscar and Golden Globe
nomination for Best Actor. Though it was clearly Jamie Foxx's time for the
award, there has been no denying the level of acclaim Cheadle has gotten, and
Rwanda is a work of pure
passion and brilliance. One of last year's truly great films, it's an important
piece that everyone should see. The story itself seemed to have been forgotten
at the time it occurred, and this film serves as a chance for those who aren't
very aware of it to open their eyes to a tale of darkness and beautiful
MGM delivers a most
outstanding video handling of a film where the look and setting are a big key
element. The anamorphic picture is that of a flawless, ultimately crisp image
which never shows a hint of any flaw. The African setting is given a tremendous
look and feel, made even effecting through this grand presentation. Detail is
most terrific, and both daytime and nighttime shots are extremely well rendered.
Though the film is,
for the most part, a dialogue driven piece, there are segments that put the 5.1
mix to extraordinary use. Most sequences consist of crowd noise, which take hold
of the surround system with great effect. Additional scenes, in which tragedy
ensues, due deliver an effect through that of periodic gun fire and explosions.
The music score, provided by Andrea Guerra and Rupert Gregson-Williams, also
provides a monumental audio effect.
MGM provides a nice
list of extras to accompany this release, starting with a commentary track with
director/co-writer Terry George and the real life Paul Rusesabagina, including
select scene commentary by Wyclef Jean. There's also scene select commentary
with Don Cheadle, two intriguing documentaries, "A Message of Peace: The Making
of Hotel Rwanda" and "Return to Rwanda". Rounding out the disc is a theatrical
trailer and bonus previews.