Probably one of the most unsung actors working in Hollywood today is Don Cheadle. The man has been involved in some huge ensemble films and scored a lot of critical acclaim for his character performances in such films as Devil in a Blue Dress, Rosewood, The Rat Pack, and of course, Ocean's Eleven.
It seems like it has taken forever for Cheadle to find a project where he could carry it and finally deliver the performance a lot of us knew was inside him. Hotel Rwanda seems to be that project.
Cheadle plays Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who makes it possible to house over 1000 refugees during a struggle with Hutu militia in Rwanda. This true story is an unbelievable story of dedication, strength, and perseverance.
Back in 1984, a little film called The Killing Fields erupted onto silver screens across the country and unearthed a new horrific side of the Vietnam War away from the conflict. The film focused on journalists and their determination to nail down a critical story amongst the chaos that was the evacuation of Saigon. The tearing apart of families, the not knowing if your loved ones made it out of the chaos, and the dissection of the events were utterly amazing in this landmark film. For me, it is still my favorite film on Vietnam.
That landmark film has a lot of things in common with Hotel Rwanda including the tone, desperation, struggle, plight, and lead performance.
I loved Rwanda's pacing as it slowly but inevitably builds toward the looming chaos. The film's direction seems to have a mind of its own, as it is able to harness each and every emotion as the film winds towards the conflict. The audience is able to see the world come crumbling down through Don Cheadle's Paul, and what a sight it is.
Cheadle's performance as Paul is challenging, assertive, brilliant, yet cautious. He brings many levels to the man who has to balance so many things while riding this tidal wave of unrest. With every look and emotion you can see what the man is thinking. Cheadle is utterly brilliant. Someone has to remember him come Oscar time.
What probably differs between this film and The Killing Fields is the support given to Cheadle's performance. I wasn't that impressed with a very weathered Nick Nolte as the commander of the UN Peacekeepers and Joaquin Phoenix isn't ever given a chance to really participate before he is whisked away.
I kind of wished that the film had better supporting performances so that Cheadle had more to work with. But even without them, he is able to carry the full weight of the film. Now that is amazing unto itself.
Hotel Rwanda is an amazing story and a truly unforgettable film. (4.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.