Hotel Rwanda is a riveting and compelling film, with its star Don Cheadle providing one of the most gripping performances in recent memory.
Hotel Rwanda is the true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a hotel manager in Kigali, Rwanda, who is smart, polished, and understands how his world works. Catering to demanding high-ranking government officials one moment and sun-bathing German tourists the next, Paul uses bribery, flattery and plain-old common sense to keep everyone at his hotel happy. But in 1994, he becomes an unlikely hero when his country becomes engulfed in a bloody civil war. During a 100-day massacre in Rwanda, when long-standing tensions between the country's Tutsi and Hutu tribes explode, over one million innocent people were slaughtered. Paul, who is Hutu, suddenly must rely on the very same tactics he used to run his hotel to save his wife, Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), who is Tutsi, their family and over one thousand Tutsi refugees escaping the Hutu militia. What follows is a harrowing story of courage as their country descends deeper and deeper into a hell on earth, while the world watched--and did nothing.
From Buck Swope in Boogie Nights to Sammy Davis Jr. in HBO's The Rat Pack, Don Cheadle has been quietly turning in top-notch performances of amazing versatility his entire career. But Hotel Rwanda finally gives Cheadle his first stab as a leading man--and he gives his most powerful, Oscar-caliber performance to date. It would have been easy for such a meaningful film to overshadow the acting, but Cheadle brings the story to a personal level. As Paul, Cheadle carefully portrays a man, whose calm determination is a beacon of sanity while absolute chaos rages around him. As Paul's wife, Tatiana, Sophie Okonedo (Dirty Pretty Things) also delivers a poignant look at a woman torn and effortlessly keeps up with Cheadle without missing a beat. In supporting roles, Nick Nolte does a nice job as the frustrated U.N. colonel who serves as a reminder of how the outside world is indifferent towards the mass genocide, while Joaquin Phoenix, playing an American news cameraman covering the carnage quips, ''They'll say, 'Oh my God, that's horrible!' Then they'll go on eating their dinners.''
Director Terry George, in his feature film debut, brings moviegoers deep into a world that would otherwise be difficult to relate to--especially when the only exposure the rest of world got to the 1994 genocide was 30-second blurbs on the evening news. Instead of focusing on the machete-hacking killings, brutal rapes and gunfire, however, George focuses on the human factor, as Paul and his family find themselves making unfathomable choices in a gut-wrenching, mind-bendingly horrific situation. In one moving scene, Paul must make the ultimate decision, telling his wife, ''If I do not make it back in time, you must go up to the roof of the hotel with our children, take them by the hand and jump. A machine gun is no way to die.'' The heart-wrenching Hotel Rwanda puts a very human face on a tragedy of gargantuan proportions--and will make you ask yourself, ''What would I've done?''
You may not have known about Rwanda's 100-day civil war annihilation, but after seeing Hotel Rwanda--fueled by Don Cheadle's powerhouse, Oscar-worthy performance--you won't be able to forget it.