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Home Theater Movie Renter's Guide - June, 2011

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"Hotel Rwanda" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Tyler Stripko

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Synopsis

In 1994, the long-simmering tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi people in Rwanda came to a head.  The Hutus began systematically exterminating the Tutsis in what can only be construed as genocide.  Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) is a Hutu who married a Tutsi and fears for the life of his wife and children.  Using his position as a high-class hotel manager, Paul opens up his hotel to over 1000 Tutsi refugees and must use every skill at his disposal to keep them safe throughout the crisis.

Specifications

  • MGM
  • 2004, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hr 2 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: AVC @ 40 Mbps
  • 1080p
  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Don Cheadle, Sophie Okondedo, Joaquin Phoenix, and Nick Nolte
  • Directed by Terry George
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Graphic
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Bad

Commentary

“Hotel Rwanda” is based off of the real-life story of Paul Rusesabagina.   Early on in the crisis, Paul realized that the UN was doing little to stop the killings, so he decided to protect his family and as many Tutsis as possible from genocide.  The story is very character driven; focusing primarily on the extraordinary efforts Paul took to keep his “guests” safe from harm.  Fortunately, Don Cheadle’s performance was outstanding and rightfully earned him an Oscar nomination for best actor.  The tightly-woven plot moves along briskly and remains focused on Paul’s struggle.  The supporting cast members are strong and help add even more emotion to the film.   On a moral level, this film is incredibly powerful and shows how ordinary people can become true heroes when called upon.  When I first saw this film back in 2004, I remember being shocked that even though almost one million Tutsis (and Hutus) were slaughtered, there had been almost zero media coverage of these events here in the United States.  Besides being an excellent film “Hotel Rwanda” recalls an important historical event, one that hopefully won’t be repeated any time soon.  An absolute must-see.

Technical

“Hotel Rwanda” looked pretty good on DVD when it was initially released but this Blu-ray looks even better.  Overall, the image is very sharp with vibrant, yet natural color.  There is a bit of film grain, but it does nothing to spoil the overall clarity of the picture.  Contrast is good, with many scenes that show good black levels.  I did notice one or two scenes where the overall picture brightness seemed to fluctuate a bit, but most people probably won’t even notice this.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack can best be summed up as subtle, but effective.  All dialogue is perfectly clear, with nary a scene where a viewer struggles to make out the words.   Surrounds are used sparingly, but add some nice atmospheric effects and kick in nicely when the bullets start flying.   The LFE channel is also used sparingly, but offers some nice punch in a few of the more action-driven scenes.

Extras

Included on this disc are a making-of documentary, the “Return to Rwanda” featurette, select scene commentary by Don Cheadle, and an audio commentary with directory Terry George, Paul Rusesabagina, and musician Wyclef Jean.