My Rating: 10/10
Rotten Tomatometer: 91% Certified Fresh
PLOT: Paul Rusesabagina (Cheadle) is a hotel manager who houses over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda in 1994.
WHY IT’S HERE:
There’s a moment, fairly early in “Hotel Rwanda”, when the main character, Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), is driving a van full of Tutsi friends down a street in their Rwandan neighborhood, after it’s become clear that the Hutu military has begun rounding up any Tutsi they can find. They pass a house across from theirs, and strewn on the lawn are the still-dressed corpses of their neighbors, slain by the militia. Paul tells the others to look away, don’t look, as he continues driving to (he hopes) safety. That small moment hooked into me in a way that’s difficult to describe: it felt REAL, immediate, and it’s shot so simply and directly. Not in the typical Hollywood way (“LOOK AT THIS!”), but much more understated (“…look at this…”), and it gave me the shivers. There are many such moments in this film, one of the best based-on-a-true-story movies you’ll ever see. Is it a bit preachy? Paul telling the refugees to call who they can and to SHAME them into sending help; the Joaquin Phoenix character exclaiming, “God, I’m so ashamed!” as he is being driven to safety while hundreds of Rwandans are left behind, presumably to die…yeah, it’s a bit preachy, but only in the sense that “Schindler’s List” and “The Accused” are preachy: there’s a good reason for it. But even aside from the message of the film, it’s just a damn good yarn, told with great economy and simplicity…along with some unbearable suspense.