Review Date: January 06, 2005
Director: Terry George
Writer: Terry George, Keir Pearson
Producers: Terry George, A. Kitman Ho
Don Cheadle as Paul
Nick Nolte as Colonel Oliver
Sophie Okonedo as Tatiana
The Hutus don’t like the Tutsis in Rwanda. Right before a peace accord between the two people is about to be signed, the Prime Minister, a Hutu, is assassinated by the Tutsi rebels, leading the Hutus on an all-out man/woman/children hunt, to rid their country of these “cockroaches”. Paul, a ritzy hotel manager, is a Hutu, but married to a Tutsi. As the annihilation of his countrymen begins and the world ignores the day-to-day atrocities, he manages to turn his hotel into a semi-refuge camp, a status which he is forced to defend every day. The killings continue, but so does the utter conviction of this man’s need to help others.
You’re not gonna check this movie out on a Friday night with your buddies or a new ladyfriend in order to “let loose” after a hard week’s work or for your chance at some introductory cinematic petting, but if you’re looking for one of those life-affirming stories about real human beings who, simply by tapping into the basic humanity that resides in all of us, helps make the world a better place, check this film out and feel a touch better as most of our modern day society leans more toward the cynical end of life’s harsh realities. This film is being compared to Steven Spielberg’s powerful SCHINDLER’S LIST, with its basic relation having to do with the unconscionable and systematic destruction of a peoples, but its greater similarity lying in its lead character, who much like Oskar Schindler did during the second world war, decided to follow his heart and conscience during a time of mass-hysteria and uncontrollable forces among his people, while putting his life on the line, many a time, in the simple hope of saving a few of his fellow human beings from a slaughter which no one ever deserves. The man playing that courageous soul in this film is Don Cheadle, and excellent character actor who finally gets to display his controlled acting chops as the lead in a motion picture, and immediately pulls you inside his circle, with an impressive performance in both his vocal stylings, which fit the bill, and even more importantly, his emotional depth with a decent “family man” opening, leading him through many paths of character, which help us both identify with the man, as well as empathize and relate. He is placed into a SOPHIE’S CHOICE situation very early on in the film, which immediately introduces you to his character as a highly compassionate human being.
Ultimately, you can only wish to be half the person that Cheadle’s character portrays in the film, as the goodness of his soul shines through in both his actions, and Cheadle’s performance, who on more than one occasion, helped coax some wet stuff out of my eye sockets. The scene in which he breaks down as he’s tying his necktie is one for the books. His wife Tatiana, played admirably by Sophie Okonedo, also deserves some praise for giving the film, and her man, that extra weight over which to grapple his familial responsibilities as husband and father, versus the notion of helping your fellow man. It’s a choice that’s wisely constructed by director Terry George who puts the audience in a creepily voyeuristic position, in a country and people, completely out of control, but within which, a man attempts to keep his composure and humanity, in order to benefit the greater good. You can’t really ask much more from a person, now can you? The film moves at a nice pace and is far from “depressing”, with well-placed scenes of children at play, a continuing business operating during a time of utter chaos and even a romantic moment (the scene on the rooftop is another keeper) never allowing its grim reality, to overcome its greater message about hope. Sadly, you would think that after all of the atrocities committed in the world over the past century, other countries would be more sensitive to such horrors, but having just taken place less than a decade ago, we can clearly see that the world – especially the Western side – needs to better identify itself with the human side of our universe, rather than the materialistic. This film reminds us that goodness can always be found, no matter what the ungodly circumstances, and that that goodness lies within each and every single one of us, every single day.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian