Movie Review: "Hotel Rwanda"

"Hotel Rwanda"

As "Bleed Cubbie Blue" is to be much more focused on the Cubs than "And Another Thing", I have been racking my brains for three days trying to find a connection between this movie and the Cubs.

Any Africans play for the Cubs? African-Americans, yes. But no Africans.

The Cubs ever play in Africa? Nope.

Oh, I give up. Here: pitchers and catchers report tomorrow, and then we'll have some baseball to talk about. Some of my fellow CBA members, notably here, have begun to do season position previews, but frankly, with not a single pitch having been thrown in anger, I don't want to get into that quite yet. Sure, it's thirty-nine degrees outside my window right now, and that's fine Opening Day weather, but I'm going to wait a while before I talk about what is actually going on with balls and bats and gloves.

About this movie: I didn't know much about it and frankly, when I first heard about it, I didn't really care that much to see it. I knew of the Rwandan war, the tribal genocide that took place in the mid-1990's -- and I knew that this movie was based on true events.

What I did not know was that it was in fact an actual true story about a heroic man named Paul Rusesabagina, played by Don Cheadle, who is much better known for comedic roles on the TV series "Picket Fences" and the "Ocean's Whatever" soon-to-be-series of films, but here, he takes this role and plays it utterly seriously, and indeed, that is what it takes, for Paul Rusesabagina is a serious man.

He is the manager of a luxury hotel in the capital of Rwanda, and we join the action as there is civil war breaking out. Paul (it's too hard to keep typing that last name!) knows exactly how to handle the various politicians and army types in his country to get what he wants and needs for foreign guests.

But when there is a coup, and horrifyingly, people begin to learn that there is tribal genocide going on, Paul becomes Oskar Schindler, and hides 1200 Rwandans in his hotel, saving their lives.

This movie will make you think, because it shows the callousness with which the world treats this genocide, where over a million people were slaughtered for nothing, and despite the efforts of Paul and some of his friends, no one in the outside world cares. Sure, the head of Sabena, the Belgian company that owns the hotel, staves off destruction of the hotel for a while -- but as we learn, he does this mostly to protect Belgian property, not to save lives.

I won't spoil the ways in which Paul works to save the lives of both his own family and strangers, just because he knows it is the right thing to do. You should go see this movie for yourself, it's that important a statement.

Cheadle has been nominated for Best Actor for this role and you know what, before I saw this I might have voted for Clint Eastwood in "Million Dollar Baby" (if I had an Oscar vote). But Cheadle's performance is absolutely Oscar-worthy, as is that of British actress Sophie Okonedo, nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her deep and soulful performance as Tatiana, Paul's wife.

Nick Nolte plays a Canadian military officer working for the UN, and though he is his usual seemingly half-drunk self, the performance shows clearly how feckless and worthless the United Nations has been in world situations like the terrible civil war in Rwanda, not to mention many others since.

This is an important film, and well-done too.

And I promise, though you will read reviews like this occasionally... it is time for baseball. Tomorrow.

AYRating: three and a half stars

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