Time Out saysA decade since tribal extremists in Rwanda organised a blitzkrieg of ethnic killing while the world minced its words, the feature dramatisations are finally spilling out, aiming to remind us of evils hurriedly forgotten and lessons still unlearnt. Raoul Peck’s wrenching ‘Sometimes in April’ is due to open next month’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival, and others are in the pipeline, but first comes this true story from issue-dramatist Terry George (‘Some Mother’s Son’), with an Oscar-nominated Don Cheadle re-enacting the part of Paul Rusesabagina, Rwanda’s own Schindler, who harboured hundreds of refugees in the grounds of the elite hotel where he worked as house manager. Like Schindler, he’s a convenient proxy for an outside audience: an initially compromised, sceptical sophisticate, steeped in colonial proprieties, whose belatedly kindled conscience provides some relief from the encompassing darkness.
Knuckling down to a native accent and keeping a lid on his wits, Cheadle carries the story, but there’s a tension between the focus on his heroics and the film’s wider hand-wringing project (we get Nick Nolte as a self-disgustedly impotent UN colonel, and Joaquin Phoenix as a briefly daring Irish photographer whose long lens captures one of the film’s few images of actual carnage). That tension might be fruitful, and one can debate how much of the carnage beyond the hotel’s precarious sanctuary the film needs to screen – its strongest scene sees Rusesabagina floundering among an unparted sea of corpses that he’d unwittingly been driving over in the dawn fog. But there’s a tidiness and sense of convenience in the film’s stock characterisations and button-pushing plotting that detracts from its impact. The film doesn’t just contrive to contain the slaughter, but also its own anger.
Fri Feb 25, 2005