Raw, gritty, and yet stylish and exotic, The Nile Hilton Incident will make you seek out similar movies and there will be none. This is a distinctly neo-noir movie like no other. Set against the backdrop of the 2011 revolution in Egypt, it’s an all-around sobering experience that will stay with you for a long time. There are no heroes or victims here, only humans going about their lives in this cruel world we live in. The cruel world created by those that came before us, perhaps unwittingly and unwillingly but created nonetheless. And the same thing goes for us, trying our best right now.
The story of The Nile Hilton Incident takes place in the bustling city of Cairo. Although the filming had to be moved at one point to nearby Casablanca, the atmosphere is incredibly immersive and authentic. Especially during the night, when the city comes alive with street vendors and people going about their lives. Among these people, we find Police Commander Noredin Mostafa, a troubled and corrupt man, who spends his nights trying to tune out the chaos that is his life and world.
Played masterfully by Fares Fares, he’s a complex man overcome by nihilism and lack of hope. In the best tradition of noir movies, only instead of criminals, the protagonist is a detective. I guess his corruption and other vices make him closer to the other side of the law. The comparisons to Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant are somewhat warranted but Noredin is a much more down-to-earth and likable character. As most are in this crime masterpiece. We will meet all kinds of people and learn more about their lives and dreams. Dreams usually dashed by the ruthless and uncaring roll of dice.
It is a hot and humid night in Cairo and Police Commander Noredin Mostafa is getting ready to go out and do his rounds. At the same time, a situation is developing in a luxury Nile Hilton hotel. We can only hear screams behind the closed door, same as the unfortunate maid who was cleaning the rooms at the time. A man emerges from the room looking around to check if anyone saw him. Satisfied, he leaves the hotel. It is the next morning and Noredin finds himself on the scene of the crime in a hotel. The Nile Hilton hotel.
Right from the start, this movie takes a hold of you and it doesn’t let go until the end. Actually, not even then because you keep coming back to it. It explores a lot of different subjects without being preachy or judgmental. It just shows you how things are. I couldn’t help but draw parallels between this case and the revolution that was unfolding in the background. The desire for change and hope for justice and better life is dashed by this well-oiled machine of power, money, corruption, and lack of morals. Although the results of the revolution are undeniable, I think that nothing fundamentally changed behind the scenes.
We rarely get such an authentic look at these almost closed-off states in Africa and Middle-East. Populated by welcoming and honest people, the powers that be silence any type of criticism or negative press. We ultimately see that we’re all the same, no matter where we live. You might even call this system a distilled variation of that in the developed world. All this gives the movie a special and exotic flavor. There are so many scenes where you can’t help but admire the cinematography, framing, and atmosphere in general.
Finally, to top things off, I have to tell you that The Nile Hilton Incident is relatively based on real events. The location may be different but the main story is there. You can read more about the murder of Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim here. As I previously mentioned, this movie will create an itch that you really can’t scratch as there aren’t many movies like it. Any recommendations would invariably lead us to old-school French noir, although this is actually a Swedish production. Movies like Le Trou, Rififi and Bob le Flambeur.
You also might wanna check out the Department Q film series starring Fares Fares and perhaps Chinatown, Night Moves and L.A. Confidential when it comes to Hollywood productions. As far as modern movies like The Nile Hilton Incident are concerned, apart from the gripping masterpiece No Rest for the Wicked, the following are somewhat similar: Nightcrawler, Prisoners, Drive, and Dragged Across Concrete. Enjoy.
Director: Tarik Saleh
Writers: Tarik Saleh, Magdi Abdelhadi
Cast: Fares Fares, Mari Malek, Yasser Ali Maher, Ahmed Selim, Slimane Dazi, Hania Amar, Ger Duany, Hichem Yacoubi, Mohamed Yousry
Fun Facts: The Egyptian state security service put a stop to production in Cairo. Their next destination was Casablanca where everything was fine.
IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5540188/