Tuesday 18th January 2022

Hotel Rwanda (12A)
Directed by: Terry George
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

When most of us hear the name Rwanda, we think of the country in Africa, and more specifically of the horrific images we saw on the news in 1994, when thousands of people were forced to flee the country because of a genocide that would claim 800,000 lives in only 100 days.

Sophie Okonedo and Don Cheadle
Sophie Okonedo and Don Cheadle

And sure enough, that's exactly what Hotel Rwanda is about. Don Cheadle (Out of Sight, Traffic) plays the manager of the eponymous hotel that plays host to many important diplomats and is an oasis of civility and calm in such a poor and corrupt country.

However, shortly after the Rwandan President is assassinated, it becomes clear that any member of the Tutsi ethnic minority are in grave danger, and people begin fleeing to the hotel, which is under guard by the UN peace keeping force.

Things are pretty grim from then on, though, as thousands of people are butchered, while the UN is ordered not to intervene and later to pull almost all of its troops out of the area, leaving Cheadle's character to bribe, bargain with and deceive the Hutu militia to secure the safety of his family and the hotel's "guests".

I was a bit dubious about this one when I heard that Don Cheadle was staring in it and doing one of his "accents", like the unusual cock-er-ney one he employed for Ocean's Eleven. However, I must say his performance is excellent in this film, and definitely deserved the nominations and awards it has garnered this year.

There were also good performances from British actress Sophie Okonedo, Jean Reno (Leon) and Joachim Phoenix (Buffalo Soldiers, Gladiator), although some of the acting from the extras was a little suspect. Even more so was the acting from Nick Nolte, whose attempt at a frustrated UN Colonel came across as someone who was having trouble remembering their lines.

Overall, though, I don't have too many issues with this film. It is interesting, both from an historical and a personal point of view and the fact it is based on a true story makes it all the more poignant. While watching Hotel Rwanda is not exactly hard work, it's not entirely enjoyable either – watching footage of a massacre might be character building stuff, but it's not how I prefer to spend my spare time and I don't think you'll be missing out on a classic film if you skip this one. For my money, I'd rather take a chance on one of the week's numerous other releases or spend a relaxing couple of hours in front of the first rate Hitch.

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Length: 121 minutes
Certificate: 12A
Official Site:
IMDB Link:
Release Date: 4th March 2005

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