Hotel Rwanda Review

Kigali 1994 - Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) lives a relatively privileged life as an assistant manager of a Belgian hotel, L'Hotel Des Milles Collines. However, the assassination of President Habyarimana throws his country into civil strife with the Hutus blaming the Tutsis for the coup attempt. As the Westerners vacate the country, Paul finds himself the lone manager of the hotel. Simultaneously, he finds his reputation as a moderate Hutu has made him a converging point for Tutsis seeking to escape the unfolding genocide. With little option but to put them up in the hotel, Paul hopes that the international community will rapidly intervene. This however fails to materialise and with the mounting tension and no more funds to bride officers, Paul's overful hotel is likely to become a target for marauding rebels.

The true tale of Rusesabagina's daring rescue of almost a thousand people is generally well served in the film - the cast manages to bring the characters to life with Don Cheadle putting in an excellent performance as Paul and British actress Sophie Okonedo completing him as his wife. Major names also appear as secondary characters - Nick Nolte plays a rather Nolte-like UN colonel, Joaquin Phoenix briefly appears as an ashen-faced cameraman and Jean Reno cameos for a couple of scenes as the head of Sabena. The tale of an exceptional person in a hellish situation has become a bit of a cinematic cliché in recent years - in fact, it has almost become the sole way Hollywood tends to approach these thorny issues. To a large extent, Hotel Rwanda panders a little too much to reeling the viewer along and adding suspect cliffhangers to keep the audience caring. The film would have easily stood up without these scenes and it is therefore a shame the makers felt the need to include them. Still, Paul's tale is one of triumph over adversity even when the odds are stacked against you and the fact this is a real story adds to our empathy with the characters. Not the compelling tour-de-force some see it as, but an interesting and worthy piece of work all the same.

The DVD:

The image:
The colours are quite vivid with a nice palette in most scenes. The occasional bit of print damage crops up which is somewhat surprising given the age of the film. The 2.35:1 is respected with an anamorphic transfer.

The sound:
Though given a 5.1 mix, most of the sound emanates from the central speakers. Scenes outside the hotel get a more expansive mixes with some good use of the surrounds.

The extras:
A substantial amount of extras are featured on the disc. First up, we have a commentary from the director (Terry George) and Paul Rusesabagina. The stereo mix keeps the voices separate and the major focus is on Paul's input with the George acting as MC and interviewer. As a whole it is a very good commentary as Paul gives us his take on the film and recounts his story in great detail.

A further feature, Return to Rwanda (15 mins) expands on the commentary. We follow Paul on an emotive return to Rwanda,as he revisits the scene of the film relating to us what he lived through. The other extras in comparison are far less interesting - we get some key scenes commented by Don Cheadle (22 mins) and a 30 minute long featurette on the film with interviews with the cast, director, writer and Rusesabagina himself. Although not really poor extras, they are not really on par with the other first two.

Although the film may or may not appeal to most viewers, some of the extras are excellent and add a great deal to the film's presentation, making this as good a presentation one would expect for this film.

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