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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 22.5%
Average: 3.75%
Pretty Bad: 3.75%
Total Crap: 3.75%

5 reviews, 50 user ratings

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Hotel Rwanda
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by EricDSnider

"You can check out anytime you like, but if you do, you'll get killed."
4 stars

Joaquin Phoenix isn't in "Hotel Rwanda" very much, but he's on screen long enough for his character, a news reporter named Jack, to summarize exactly how the world will react when they see the unfolding massacre on CNN: "They'll say, 'Oh my God, that's horrible!' Then they'll go on eating their dinners."

Even at that, he's probably overstating the West's empathy for Africa's intra-national squabbles. "Hotel Rwanda" is set in the capital city of Kigali in 1994, where Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) is manager of the upscale Hotel de Mille Collines. (You can tell Paul was a real person because no fictional character would ever have a name that unwieldy.) Rwanda was arbitrarily divided years earlier into two separate tribes, the Hutus and the Tutsis, the latter of which mostly governed, often oppressively. Now factions within the Hutu group are urging their fellows to rise up and kill the Tutsis.

Paul is a Hutu, but he does not subscribe to the militant notions being advocated by some. He, like most of his sensibly minded fellow Rwandans, realizes there is so little actual difference between the two tribes that it is often impossible to tell which one a person belongs to without asking. Paul is a calm businessman, dressed at all times in a suit and tie, unfailingly polite and efficient. He runs a good hotel, and he runs a good life.

But tensions flare and soon people are being arrested and executed by the Hutu militia. Paul tells his wife (Sophie Okonedo) that he cannot call in favors to help their incarcerated neighbor because "he is not family." Then he rolls over in bed and we see in his eyes that he knows this policy of selective protection cannot last. He's too good a person.

Sure enough, within days his hotel is home to 800 refugees. Paul realizes quickly that warlords are easily placated if you have enough cash; bribery, tact and a cool common sense make him an excellent leader, protecting his refugees from the slaughter that reigns elsewhere in the city.

Don Cheadle, who has received critical acclaim but little mainstream notice for his previous work ("Boogie Nights," "Traffic," "Ocean's Eleven," etc.), performs here as though it is the very culmination of his long, busy career, which it probably is. His commitment to the role and to the film is unwavering as he infuses the character with life and texture. We know Paul was a real man, but Cheadle makes us FEEL it.

Sophie Okonedo plays the supportive wife gracefully, sinking her teeth into a few choice moments when Mrs. Rusesabagina is perturbed by her husband's priorities. I should also mention Nick Nolte, who plays a grizzled, reluctantly heroic U.S. colonel with characteristic aplomb.

I don't understand the political and diplomatic complexities at play here, and director Terry George (who co-wrote the script with Keir Pearson) doesn't take as much care as he ought to in explaining them, leaving us in the dark, at times, in regard to who's killing whom and why. He also is too careful about which characters whose names we know are allowed to die, setting up too many false alarms and tearful resolutions. And yet it is still a powerful, sobering film, alive with energy and urgency. It brings immediacy to a tragedy that most of us paid little attention to when it was happening.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 01/06/05 15:07:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/21/08 Shaun Wallner Great Film! 5 stars
6/04/07 R.W. Welch Has an authentic feel to it. Standout turn by Cheadle. 4 stars
5/21/07 action movie fan boring tale of african turmoil-africa addio was much better and more harrowing 2 stars
10/30/06 Dorito Cheadle is a pretty good actor, but movie not even close to historicly correct 2 stars
3/19/06 MP Bartley Cleverly unstylised drama really impacts. Cheadle is magnificent. 5 stars
1/23/06 ANDREW FAYE AWESOME` 5 stars
10/09/05 DM Well-acted and moving despite feeling a bit too much like an inferior "Schindler's List." 4 stars
8/28/05 D Buckley TV movie at best. 2 stars
8/09/05 Bubba Fish A powerfully moving drama 5 stars
6/21/05 Phil M. Aficionado Really "worth a look" because it has drawbacks (just a few), "awesome" in candor/impact 5 stars
6/15/05 Maha Azzam It is an effective film that makes you not only feel the suffering but also live it. 5 stars
6/13/05 Helen Bradley Excellent acting better editing would improve pace 4 stars
6/10/05 Simon Moviemaking solid. Story immensely moving. Don Cheadle flawless. 5 stars
6/07/05 Indrid Cold Cheadle is great as promised, but nonwhere near the overall impact I expected. 3 stars
4/25/05 Jeff Anderson Gripping, authentic & real! Don Cheadle gives an unforgettable & brilliant performance. 5 stars
4/18/05 s dunivan it was great i thiught i showed what was going on 5 stars
4/15/05 shatonjia Awesome...a topic that the US overlooked until now. 5 stars
4/13/05 kimberly miller Its great movie i hope people watch its and really see whats going on in other countries. 5 stars
3/26/05 Greg Ursic A disturbing film. Cheadles performance was outstanding 4 stars
3/25/05 malcontent Cheadle should finally get deserved recognition 5 stars
3/15/05 brody WOW..... 5 stars
3/05/05 Heather Great movie, Don Cheadle's performanxce is Oscar worthy 5 stars
3/03/05 HORAN THE MAN!!!!! HOTELS SUCK MY LET NUT!!! 1 stars
3/02/05 David Tsung don, you finally got some deserved recognition 5 stars
3/02/05 jack cheadle is good but feel and pacing is not right 3 stars
2/27/05 Mike Hollywood. Forgettable despite a compelling topic. Wasted opportunity. 1 stars
2/26/05 Elizabeth S Powerful and unforgettable. 5 stars
2/18/05 Fahad Pinto very moving 5 stars
2/18/05 dian anderson AWESOME AND THE TRUTH IS SCARY 5 stars
2/17/05 Hilary Adamson Refreshing! First of this year's Oscar nominees I've see that's not about sex&the shitty! 4 stars
2/14/05 Nathan Wilhite Amazing! I was in Rwanda and 2000 and this movie stunned me. 5 stars
2/12/05 ray Cartoonish....Where does Hollywood come up with this stuff.... 1 stars
2/06/05 ajay stunning. 5 stars
2/05/05 Lisa Everyone must see this film! I'm stunned that it wasn't nominated for Best Picture. 5 stars
2/03/05 axe I've seen Tears of the Sun, which was, well, execrable. But this, friends, is well-executed 5 stars
2/02/05 Uncle Phucker Very poor excecuting in story telling. All the actors were fabulous! 3 stars
1/30/05 Nicole Great film 5 stars
1/25/05 Banzai Windmills Wow. We need more movies like this (ie, topical and starring Don Cheadle) 5 stars
1/25/05 Theresa Hew Powerful, Cheadle deserves the Oscar. 5 stars
1/24/05 MoVon Very well done! 5 stars
1/22/05 malcolm the theater was dead silent when this movie ended. scarier than any john carpenter film. 5 stars
1/19/05 Lisa Everyone over age 12 should see this film 5 stars
1/11/05 chris. i watched this after being forced to watch little back book. it saved me from suicide. 5 stars
1/09/05 cut the tall trees!! jesus fuckin christ I am a Hutu nigger and we are planning to take over the goddamn honky world!! 4 stars
12/21/04 Ray Superb 5 stars
12/11/04 Nick Truly powerful 5 stars
11/25/04 Jes AMAZING! he is by far a master actor.This films is also amazing,terrible story, but reality 5 stars
9/20/04 xx xxx 5 stars
9/15/04 bonnie great film, a must see 5 stars
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  22-Dec-2004 (R)
  DVD: 12-Apr-2005



Directed by
  Terry George

Written by
  Terry George
  Keir Pearson

  Don Cheadle
  Nick Nolte
  Sophie Okonedo
  Antonio David Lyons

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