×

Film Review: ‘The Nile Hilton Incident’

An Egyptian cop tries to unravel a murder mystery in the days before the country’s 2011 revolution in Tarik Saleh’s potently bleak neo-noir.

With:
Fares Fares, Mari Malek, Yasser Ali Maher, Slimane Daze, Ahmed Seleem, Mohamed Yousry, Hichem Yacoubi, Hania Amar. (Arabic dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5540188/

Proof that classical genres are always ready to be retrofitted for the modern age, “The Nile Hilton Incident” transplants the dark, cynical heart of film noir to the streets of Cairo in the days leading up to the 2011 revolution that would eventually oust President Hosni Mubarak. Swedish writer-director Tarik Saleh’s crime drama about a cop investigating the murder of a beautiful singer is a paranoid portrait of individual and systemic corruption that leaves none of its characters unscarred. Blending procedural thrills with politicized commentary, this gripping import (based, in part, on a real-life 2008 case) should attract sizable domestic interest following its premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Millions of Egyptians began protesting Mubarak’s reign beginning on Jan. 25, 2011 – a date that serves as the climactic setting of “The Nile Hilton Incident.” Saleh’s film commences shortly before that momentous turn of events, with a young Sudanese girl named Salwa (Mari Malek) who, while working as a cleaning lady at the titular hotel, overhears an argument in a room, out of which two men, in relatively brief succession, leave, the second one after having killed a woman. Salwa escapes this assassin, and tidying up the mess is left to Noredin (Fares Fares), a cop who has few qualms about pilfering cash from the scene of the crime, but who nonetheless is compelled to figure out who’s behind this murder, even though his superiors, including his uncle, Kamal (Yasser Ali Maher), are eager to sweep it under the rug.

Noredin’s inquiry immediately points him toward Shafiq (Ahmed Seleem), a real-estate developer and parliament member. Shafiq denies responsibility for the death of the girl, a local singer and prostitute named Lalena, who it turns out worked with a sleazy pimp named Nagy (Hichem Yacoubi) to take compromising photos of her clients (including Shafiq) that could then be used as blackmail. The film’s intro sequences makes clear that Shafiq had another mystery man (Slimane Daze) actually do away with Lalena. And the fact that these would-be culprits are both in league with – and shielded by – the police and governmental bigwigs is obvious to everyone, including Noredin, who finds himself at every turn stymied by people, and institutions, more concerned with self-interest than the truth.

After chasing numerous avenues that culminate in dead ends (as well as ominous warnings about his own professional and personal safety), Noredin is informed by Shafiq, “There’s no justice here.” That reality is as inescapable as the smog is thick in Cairo, a city the movie presents as a fugue-like dystopian wasteland littered with the bodies of innocents and the broken shards of the laws intended to protect them. Director Saleh’s frequent cutaways to his metro skyline evoke a sense of “Chinatown”-by-way-of-“Blade Runner” bleakness, while his infrequent snippets of TV news footage create anticipation for a forthcoming revolutionary conflagration set to engulf everyone and everything in its path.

Stuck in the center of this cesspool, Noredin proves incapable of affecting anything resembling real change, and Fares’ performance – all world-weary resignation and desperate righteousness – captures a poignant sense of helplessness. That’s especially true when he decides to become involved with Gina (Hania Amar), a friend of Lalena’s who’s also engaged in the crooner-cum-working-girl trade. Still grieving over his dead wife, Noredin knows that his behavior will invariably compromise him (and his investigation). Still, he proceeds accordingly, desperate for a sliver of genuine human connection, and buoyed by his knowledge that any indiscretion can be washed away with a bribe.

By the time it arrives at its showdown amid Cairo’s burgeoning uprising, “The Nile Hilton Incident” has indulged in so many grim twists that it’s hard not to read it, and its downbeat ending, as a stinging commentary on the venality of the Mubarak era, as well as the futility of the forthcoming revolution to hold the nation’s actual villains accountable. Like the finest noir, what springs forth from Saleh’s film is the dreary belief that the bad sleep well while the rest are left to suffer in the streets.

Film Review: 'The Nile Hilton Incident'

Reviewed at Magno Screening Room, New York, Jan. 17, 2017. (In Sundance Film Festival — World Dramatic Competition.) Running time: 107 MIN.

Production: (Sweden-Denmark-Germany) A Match Factory presentation in co-production with Ostlicht Filmproduktion, Final Cut for Real, Film Vast, Nordsvensk Filmunderhällning, Sveriges Television, Chimney, Scanbox and Copenhagen Film Fund with support from the Swedish Film Institute, Eurimages, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, the Danish Film Institute, West Danish Film Fund and Atmo. (International sales: The Match Factory, Germany.) Producer: Kristina Åberg. Executive producers, Fares Fares, Tom Persson, Mikael Ahlström, Lars Rodvaldr, Tarik Saleh, Kristina Åberg, Emil Wiklund, Jon Wigfield. Co-producers, Karim Debbagh, Monica Hellstrøm, Marcel Lenz, Signe Byrge Sørensen.

Crew: Director, writer: Tarik Saleh. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Pierre Aïm. Editor: Theis Schmidt.

With: Fares Fares, Mari Malek, Yasser Ali Maher, Slimane Daze, Ahmed Seleem, Mohamed Yousry, Hichem Yacoubi, Hania Amar. (Arabic dialogue)

More Film

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Apollo 11' Re-Release Set for Moon Landing Anniversary

    In today’s film news roundup, Neon is re-releasing “Apollo 11”; “Sesame Street” gets moved; “Supersize Me 2” is set for Sept. 13; Will Ropp gets a “Silk Road” deal; and Apple makes a movie deal. RE-LAUNCH Neon will re-release Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary “Apollo 11” in theaters on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Moves to Awards Season Slot

    Michael B. Jordan’s upcoming legal drama “Just Mercy” has been shifted forward three weeks from Jan. 17 to Dec. 25 for an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release. “Just Mercy” is based on the case of Walter McMillan, an African-American death-row prisoner who was exonerated in 1993 after being convicted five years earlier for a 1986 murder in [...]

  • Harry Styles to Play Prince Eric

    Harry Styles in Talks to Play Prince Eric in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Harry Styles is going under the sea. The former One Direction frontman is in early negotiations to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • Stuber Movie

    Disney Left With a Slate of Film Flops After Fox Deal

    Is Disney having buyer’s remorse? The studio would be forgiven if it were having some regrets after absorbing 20th Century Fox, the company that once generated big box office with the likes of “Avatar,” “Life of Pi,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After “Dark Phoenix” bombed earlier this summer, Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista’s action comedy “Stuber” [...]

  • Taika Waititi Returning to Direct 'Thor

    Taika Waititi to Direct Marvel's 'Thor 4'

    Taika Waititi is returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The filmmaker will write and direct the sequel to his 2017 blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok.” Waititi’s take on the fourth “Thor” movie puts Warner Bros.’ long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely. However, the studio hopes that “Akira” can get resume production with Waititi at the helm once [...]

  • Akira

    'Akira' Production Put on Hold by Warner Bros.

    Warner Bros. has put its long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely, sources tell Variety. Sources indicate that after a brief delay, the studio has pulled the plug on production indefinitely for the classic anime adaptation, which was set to begin later this fall. “Thor: Ragnarok” helmer Taika Waititi was on board to direct, and the [...]

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content