Don Cheadle plays Paul Rusesabagina, house manager of the luxury Hotel Mille-Collinesin Kigali. He does business with everybody, and strokes the egos of the powerful, and doesn’treally believe the anti-Tutsi sentiment being built up will really amount to anything. He is wrong,he discovers, when the genocide is unleashed. He gathers some 1200 refugees in the hotel, and,deprived of any help from the outside, must use all his wits to keep these people, along withhimself and hi… family, from being slaughtered.
Director Terry George wrote In the Name of the Father and directed SomeMother’s Son, and he yanks the viewer’s emotional strings as mercilessly as he did in thosefilms about the Irish troubles. The case could be made that he is a little too blatantlymanipulative, and that the feel-good ending, true though it is, rather lets us off the hook. As well,the character arc (apolitical businessman to impassioned defender) and narrative structure arevirtually identical to those of Schindler’s List. But none of this alters the fact that the filmworks, and is an emotionally devastating reminder, in spite of the admirable counter-example provided by Rusesabagina, of what a vile species we are.
The 5.1 track achieves some truly remarkable effects. The music sounds great, and thedialogue is clear, free of distortion, and never drowned out, but what is really impressive is theplacement of the sound effects. The key example here is during a romantic dinner betweenRusesabagina and his wife on the roof of the hotel. The romance in the images and the front-speaker score is ironically undercut by the distant sounds of gunfire emerging from the rearspeakers.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen picture is razor sharp, and completely free of grain andedge enhancement issues. The blacks are incredibly deep, the colours are very bright, and thecontrasts strong, perfectly capturing the sun-blasted locales. The flesh tones are excellent aswell.
The commentary by Terry George and Paul Rusesabagina does touch on some aspects of themaking of the film, but as George says at the start of the commentary, the real subject of thediscussion is what actually happened in Rwanada, and Rusesabagina speaks very eloquentlyabout what he saw and experienced. Musician Wyclef Jean also comes in for some selectedscenes. A 22-minute collection of scenes gets commentary by Don Cheadle, and this is a bit morebehind-the-scenes-ish, though still politically aware (and Cheadle also contributes an intro to thedisc that reminds us uncomfortably about what is happening in Darfur right now). “A Messagefor Peace” is a making-of featurette, but is much more sombre than the usual offering. “Returnto Rwandda” is a short documentary (14 minutes) that records Rusesabagina’s first trip back afterthe genocide. Also here is the theatrical trailer, along with trailers for five other releases. Themenu’s main screen is animated and scored, and the secondary screens are scored.
Heavy stuff, one that will get you thinking, even as it mercilessly yanks your emotions about.Good commentary, too.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Selected Scene Commentary by Don Cheadle
- “A Message for Peace” Featurette
- “Return to Rwanda” Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer