Hotel Rwanda (2004)

(In theaters, February 2005) Making a reasonably watchable film about genocide is a dicey proposition: You can be heartfelt and veer into melodrama, bashing the audience with massive quantities of guilt and disgust for the human race (hello Schindler’s List), or conversely treat the subject as nothing more than a great excuse for explosions, guns and righteous vengeance (I’m talking about you, Tears Of The Sun). This in an exception, though: by taking the path of a suspense film, canny writer/director Terry George manages to create a film that is both revelatory and, yes, fun to watch. Protagonist Paul Rusesabagina is your proverbial everyday man, stuck in an impossible situation without anything but his wits to keep the Rwandan genocide away from his hotel. Powerful stuff, but the way the film is constructed, as a series of mini-crises to be solved or else, makes its message accessible to a much wider audience. The suspense runs high, the horrors are shown crisply and the final message is one of quiet optimism: Bad things happen and most will try to pretend otherwise, but it’s possible to do good if you work at it. Competent technical credits and excellent acting from all players involved only make a good film great. Canadians will feel a strange sense of helpless pride at the sight of Nick Nolte as a Canadian UN peacekeeper (loosely modelled on real-life hero Roméo Dallaire) seething in impotent rage at the world’s inaction. The best thing about Hotel Rwanda is that it communicates this rage to us without feeling like a message film.

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