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Bad Times at the El Royale
  • Composed by Michael Giacchino
  • Milan / 75m

Bad Times at the El Royale (English translation: Bad Times at the The Royale) is not only an anagram of “almost reheatable deity”, it’s also a film about seven strangers hiding dark secrets who come together at a seedy hotel in the late 1960s.
Director Drew Goddard hired the busy Michael Giacchino to provide the score – a nice (and increasingly rare) opportunity for him to work on something other than a big franchise picture or a Pixar smash-hit.  His score is pretty down and dirty – by far the highlight is the wonderfully-titled “Suite at the El Royale” which opens the album.  It’s a lengthy track and covers a lot of ground – the glassy opening section is hypnotic, then we go into a dynamic action theme (a bit reminiscent of some of the composer’s Apes music) before a surprising section of religioso choral music.  It’s really good – a solid summary of the score’s main ideas and a satisfying addition to the Giacchino playlist.

I wonder in fact if it’s such a solid summary that virtually all of the remaining 67 minutes of album is rendered somewhat superfluous to requirements: virtually everything else of note on the album is a variant of something heard in that opening piece but rarely rendered in such a satisfying form (and there are some rather dull suspense cues making up the balance of the run time).  It is interesting to hear the composer do something this gritty – he uses a dark orchestration style favouring the lower ranges almost exclusively with the flavour coming from some interesting textures (and if The Hateful Eight wasn’t a pretty significant part of the temp track, I’d be surprised), but I have to say my favourite parts of the score are the more ethereal, softer sections – a piece like “My Memory, My Memory” is in itself golden – it’s just that there are so many similar ones, the impact becomes rather diluted by the time the ridiculously overlong album reaches its conclusion with the sprawling but excellent ten-minute “Absolution Presents Itself” (if you’re still listening by that point then you’re in for a treat).  People delete my website from their favourites in droves whenever I say something like this: really, a half-hour album (with the terrific opening and closing cues and a handful from in between) would have been absolute dynamite; at an hour and a quarter, I’m afraid it sticks around long beyond the checkout time.  If all this seems a bit negative then it’s worth emphasising that the opening and closing tracks really are terrific and run 18 minutes between them – and there’s enough in between them to make this easy to recommend to Giacchino enthusiasts – it’s just not quite what it could be.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Rory (Reply) on Saturday 10 November, 2018 at 21:45

    Thanks for doing this, as always.

    Out-of-character for me, but I emphatically agree about the runtime on this particular album. It’s a shame because I love the grit of it, how edgily it’s orchestrated, how much meaner and nastier and more unorthodox it gets than a lot of Giacchino’s scores for more family-friendly works. I really hope we see a shift towards more assignments like this and War over the next few years (if with better album presentation than this)– He really seems to have taken to very aggressive, lower-range stuff and made it engaging and stylish in a way few can.

    If you cut out the repetitive suspense figures for the period music featured in the film, you’d have a spectacular hour of music. Not quite as impressed with it as War, but I’ll probably get it for the highlights anyhow.

  2. J.B. (Reply) on Sunday 11 November, 2018 at 00:58

    Yeah, I have a thirty minute playlist and it’s pretty decent. You couldn’t pay me to sit through the whole thing again.

  3. Severin Murray (Reply) on Tuesday 13 November, 2018 at 02:05

    Funny that this long album doesn’t work in contrast to Fallen Kingdom, which holds its 76-minute listening shockingly quite smoothly!

  4. Jules (Reply) on Monday 19 November, 2018 at 00:04

    Hey James, thought I’d let you know I think there’s a bug in the website. For a couple weeks now the home page has been stuck on Operation Finale – doesnt show the latest reviews tab past that either. Dunno what’s going on, the other sections are normal.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Monday 19 November, 2018 at 00:22

      That’s strange. I’ve tried it on a couple of browsers and it looks ok. Does anyone else have a problem?

      • Jules (Reply) on Wednesday 21 November, 2018 at 12:27

        Never mind, just tried it on my phone and it’s all good. Must be my computer, bit of a weird bug.

  5. ANDRE>>Cape Town (Reply) on Friday 23 November, 2018 at 00:47

    Yeah James—every time I activate your site CRAZY, RICH ASIANS appear for Latest Reviews….AND for Latest Comments. I then have to click on ‘CONTINUE READING’ before current updates appear.This has been happening ever since I read your review for the Asian dramedy some months ago???

    • James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 25 November, 2018 at 14:31

      I’ve tried something which may fix it. Please could you let me know if you still have the problem now? Thanks.

  6. ANDRE>>Cape Town (Reply) on Sunday 25 November, 2018 at 23:20

    I’ve just selected Movie-Wave net–and the ‘Crazy Asians” review again appeared. Leave it James, I just have to click on CONTINUE READING to catch up with your most recent critiques.