Hotel Rwanda (2004) (PG-13 )

"Hotel Rwanda" is a film about the culmination of a history unintended. The Tutsi and Hutu people of Rwanda were given their names by a group of Belgians who told them stories about how the Tutsis (the minority) ruled the Hutu people for many centuries. When the Belgians left they overturned the power and placed it into the Hutu people's hands. Now outraged that they had been "slaves" for so long, a rebellion starts to boil inside Rwanda, ready to ignite. It was unintentional, accidental, and deadly.
The movie tells the true life story of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) a Hutu man who is the hotel manager of a posh establishment that caters to the elite and the white population. Paul is married to Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo) who is a Tutsi. 
As the rebellion starts to become more and more violent and protests are staged, Paul doesn't firmly grasp the gravity of the situation and lets things get out of hand too quickly. He brushes aside the rumors that the Hutu militia is primed and ready to pull the trigger at the sound of a secret word. He doesn't seem to believe that they are either that organized or that willing to dispatch human lives.
For as much of the war is waged in the streets, an equal amount is waged in the pockets. There is a lot to say for those who have money or things that money can no longer buy. Alcohol becomes richer than gold and Paul uses some of the hotel's coffers to help him keep on his feet.
Finally, the rebellion is staged and the organized Hutu rebels descend upon the Tutsi people. Carnage ensues. People are butchered in the streets and bludgeoned to death on the side of the road. Corpses are left carelessly thrown around and some of the Tutsi women are kept in cages as whores for the Hutu men.
"Hotel Rwanda" does a remarkable thing in the way that it increases in energy and tension. The situation is unfamiliar for a Hollywood movie, yet some of the cliches manage to slip in here. I think it would have been better off if it never let you breathe, continuing to ramp up the suspense and tension until the last few scenes...but that's just my opinion.
There is a certain amount of predictability here in the way that we seem to know that Paul, our hero, will make it through unscathed. Yet director Terry George makes us wonder if this is really the case at moments in the film. We do doubt Paul's immortality several times...much of this is also due to Don Cheadle's wonderful performance.
As the Hutus storm the streets, the UN, led by Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte) is forced to stand by and do nothing. They guard the hotel that Paul works at but their hands are politically tied...they are essentially just elaborate icons, nothing of substance.
This isn't to say that they wouldn't like to help, because Colonel Oliver is one of the film's unsung heroes who wants to do so much more but can't.
Racism sets in as the world watches Rwanda, not caring about how the natives are killing each other, and worrying more about the white people trapped inside the country.
Yet as the killing gets closer to the hotel's doorstep, the UN abandons Rwanda, leaving Paul to fend for himself while sheltering over a thousand refugees inside his hotel.
"Hotel Rwanda" manages to pull of a convincing thriller and make an intimate movie about family. It's because Paul and Sophie and their children are all so loving and cohesive that we feel for them...much of this is thanks to Sophie Okonedo.
Still as mercilessly brilliant as most of the film is, there are moments when it reminds us that it is not a perfect work. The tension drops, unnecessary character development occurs, curious little antics are adopted and then dropped for the sake of string pulling.
This isn't to say that what is left over from the movie is a mammoth picture, because that is the case. From the chaos to the location to the basic likability of the characters, "Hotel Rwanda" is an easy and smashing success.

Score: ★★★½

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