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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Grand Hotel Manager
by Betty Jo Tucker

Because I'm a confirmed movie addict, I always admit to enjoying films primarily for their escapist entertainment qualities. But I also love to be enchanted by cinematic artistry, enlightened by a great story and inspired by memorable performances.

“Inspirational” is certainly the right word to describe Don Cheadle’s riveting portrayal of a hotel manager who saves the lives of over 1,000 refugees in Hotel Rwanda. Based on a true story that happened in 1994, this film shows the bravery of a man caught in the crossfire when one tribe, the Hutu, tries to exterminate the other, the Tutsi.               

Paul Rusesabagina (Cheadle) loves his work. Trained in Belgium, he’s in charge of a 4-star hotel in Kigali. He dresses impeccably, makes all his guests feel special, and knows how to deal with suppliers as well as government officials. Although he’s Hutu, his wife (Sophie Okonedo) is Tutsi. At great danger to himself, Paul provides shelter to Tutsi refugees within his hotel while hoping for assistance from the United Nations. Sadly, the UN presence, led by Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte) is only a “peacekeeping” -- not “peacemaking” -- force, which means its members are not allowed to engage in active interference of the kind desperately needed.  

Paul uses every management skill in the book to handle this explosive situation -- while Cheadle draws us more deeply into his character’s plight with each successive scene. He adopts a convincing accent and displays greater emotional range than in previous movies like Ocean’s 11 and After the Sunset. As a an additional plus, Cheadle and Okonedo (Dirty Pretty Things) project the strongest chemistry together I’ve seen on screen this year, especially in tender scenes where the husband and wife they portray think all hope is gone.   

In Reel Spirit: A Guide to Movies That Inspire, Explore and Empower, author Raymond Teague states that certain movies enable us to meet people who are remarkable because of their “inner strength” and their “service to humankind.” He mentions Gandhi, Malcolm X, Brigham Young, Helen Keller and Oskar Schindler as examples of individuals portrayed in film who are “monuments to inspiration.” After seeing Hotel Rwanda, I believe Paul Rusesabagina also belongs on Teague’s list. I’m not surprised that some of the leading U.S. colleges screened this uplifting movie in honor of the United Nations Human Rights Day, December 10, 2004, and in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide crisis.      

Directed by Terry George (The Boxer), co-author of the suspenseful screenplay (with Keir Pearson), Hotel Rwanda moves along without one unnecessary bit of footage -- a refreshing experience for viewers like me who’ve been sitting through so many long, repetitive films lately.

Hotel Rwanda proves once again that movies can be inspiring and enlightening as well as entertaining.   

(Released by United Artists and rated “PG-13” for violence, disturbing images and brief strong language.)

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