- Terry George
- Reviewed by
- José Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Monday, October 17, 2005
Two races prevail in the African country of Rwanda: Hutus and Tutsis. The division is merely symbolic, with old colonists having chosen the “best” people to conform the Tutsis while entire generations of Hutus grew resentment towards them. Finally a civil war explodes, with Hutus aiming to kill every Tutsi that comes in their way. Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a Hutu manager of a high-class hotel, fights to protect his wife Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), a Tutsi, and his children, among many other people who seek help. Paul uses what he has in his hands to protect these people, with the aid of the struggling U.N., the hotel’s owner, the media, corrupt militia and whatever business skill he has to move forward.
Hotel Rwanda is a movie of extraordinary power. Written by Keir Pearson and director Terry George, it is the story of an entire country’s struggle as seen through the eyes of one remarkable hero. The device pays off, as the movie presents us with the general scope of what happened without ever losing the intimacy of its central character and his surroundings.
The movie raises a lot of questions and sends a clear message of denouncement. But it isn’t about ranting and bashing, it is about telling it like it was. The U.N. people in Rwanda wanted to help, but their superiors weren’t that interested. Several countries knew about the situation and did nothing. The media was there to cover it all up, but people didn’t really care. And the genocide kept going, with about a million people killed because of, well, nothing. The extent to which a human being can hurt another one has been portrayed in many movies, and this is another example of the horrific nature of some, contrasted with the heroic nature of others.
There are a lot of powerful scenes, some of which made me shed more than one tear. Paul has a romantic encounter with his wife in the hotel’s ceiling which ends up as much more than that; then there’s Paul looking for her and their kids while in the midst of an attack; or Paul in his way to the hotel through the lake road; not to mention the poignancy in every scene involving a cameraman played by Joaquin Phoenix; or the encounter of good people in the form of a Red Cross worker played by Cara Seymour. Every scene is accentuated by the extraordinary music and settings.
The acting is exemplary. Don Cheadle delivers what may be his best performance in a role that could have been a cliché, but which he embraces giving it dignity and humanity. Cheadle plays an extraordinary man and does in an equally extraordinary way. Great job. Equally good is Sophie Okonedo as his wife, a woman with a heart as big as his, who stood by his side at every point. Joaquin Phoenix appears briefly, but leaves a strong impression. And Nick Nolte makes an appearance as well.
Sometimes fact overshadows fiction. And that couldn’t be truer of this movie.
“Oh, God, I'm so ashamed!”
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Other reviews of Hotel Rwanda (2004): Groucho