"Hotel Rwanda" DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

2/03/2011 Posted by Admin

"Hotel Rwanda"

DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review

By Christopher Smith

For three months in 1994, while the world turned away from Rwanda, Rwanda's Hutu tribe armed itself with machetes and rifles, took to the streets with their collective rage, and slaughtered nearly 1 million members of the minority Tutsi tribe.

For those unfamiliar with the events, the numbers are correct - hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were butchered in their homes and in the streets in the brief span of three months, from April through July.

The situation that ignited this mass genocide is the backdrop for "Hotel Rwanda," Terry George's earnest film about a manager of a four-star European hotel who used his formidable diplomatic skills dealing with the elite to save more than 1,200 Tutsis and moderate Hutus from certain death.

The man, Paul Rusesabagina, is played by Don Cheadle in a career-high performance that earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor. He's terrific in the role, infusing passion and energy in a movie that sometimes rises to the level of his performance, but which too often plays it too safe when it comes to capturing the horrors of the Tutsi-Hutu war.

As written by George and Keir Pearson, "Hotel Rwanda" errs in that its scenes of genocide are only suggested, not witnessed, timidly taking place off screen. This robs the movie of additional power, as does the narrative, which could be tighter, and the way important political details and events are either taken for granted or are so sketchy that the film occasionally lacks cohesion.

However, the movie finds enormous success in being an engrossing portrait of the bravery of Rusesabagina, the Hutu manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines who became a reluctant hero.

Obvious parallels exists between Rusesabagina and Oskar Schindler, whose life was explored in "Schindler's List," a movie whose most harrowing scenes involved the dangers of trying to outwit a mad regime. "Rwanda" follows suit, with its tensest moments involving the sly, dangerous maneuverings Rusesabagina had to craft in order to save himself, his family and all those who were counting on him.

It would be great to report that "Hotel Rwanda" has enjoyed its current rush of media attention because of interest in its story, but that's not the case. What has pushed it to the forefront of public awareness are its two Academy Award-nominated performances, the second of which is a best supporting actress nod for the marvelous Sophie Okonedo as Rusesabagina's equally brave, Tutsi wife, Tatiana.

Will the film find an audience in its new incarnation on Blu-ray disc? Likely not the one it deserves. As I write, Egypt may be in chaos, but the top e-mailed article on NYTimes.com is "A Home Treatment Kit for Super Bowl Suffering."

Grade: B+

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