Based on true events that emerged from the atrocity of the Rwandan civil war, director Terry George’s masterful Hotel Rwanda introduces us to Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), the then-manager of the posh Hotel Milles Collines.
In 1994, Hutu extremists held the nation by the throat and focused their hatred on the Tutsi people and moderate Hutus. Almost overnight, menace turned to violence and caught thousands unaware. When Rusesabagina’s wife, family and neighbours are threatened by the militia, he exchanges cash, liquor and stockpiled favours with the authorities for the lives of those closest to him.
Barricaded in the hotel with those he is trying to protect, Rusesabagina is a reluctant hero. At first, he assumes that once outsiders know what is happening, help will come, but the truth descends like a dark, desolate cloud. Despite a fax campaign pleading with the hotel’s European owners and even President Clinton, the refugees at the Milles Collines realize there is little the outside world is able – or willing – to do.
Rusesabagina is left to keep the hundreds of Tutsis who have taken sanctuary in his hotel safe for just another day, another hour. For one hundred days, until rescued by the United Nations, he held the line against terror.
George recreates these days of tragedy and triumph with the most sensitive touch, recognizing the desperate claustrophobia of the ever-present threat of brutality. The awesome Cheadle, in one of the finest performances of his distinguished career, captures every fibre and sinew of this remarkable, complex man.
He is joined by Nick Nolte as the head of the beleaguered United Nations peacekeeping force, crazed with frustration, but unwilling to abandon the country to its fate. Cheadle’s scenes with Sophie Okonedo (Dirty Pretty Things), who plays Rusesabagina’s wife Tatiana, have a rarely seen intimacy and power.