The Nile Hilton Incident: Review


By Yahia EL-Tanani.

Constantly trying to figure out what the next crime thriller you’re going to watch as you go through your daily life? Likewise, so why not watch this film? In the Nile Hilton Incident, Tarik Saleh presents us with a neo-noir film that follows Noredin (Fares Fares), a lieutenant colonel of the Cairo police, being handed a casual murder case of a singer in the Nile Hilton Hotel. However, the more he endeavours to crack the case the more unforeseen mystery he unravels coming to the eventual realisation that what is at hand is much bigger than himself. Sound good so far? That’s because it is good.

Let’s talk about character. The main character Noredin (Fares Fares) is persuasively well-rounded made not with good or bad, but proficiently with strengths and weaknesses. The character is provided with the most difficult quality to craft in modern day cinema, humanity. What’s more he is shockingly well performed by a Fares Fares who isn’t even Egyptian, not that you would notice. Empathy is created in abundance for the characters here through the humorous dialogue and the all-round concrete performances. All actors pay their dues, and are representative of all the different facets of life lead in such a prejudiced Egyptian society.

The film contains typical vernacular Egyptian humour which brings me on to one of my favourite things about the film. The film is a cultural sponge. It captures all the colloquialisms and idiomatic nature of Egyptian culture in the most accurate and endearing manner. It has to be the most accurate representation of modern day Egypt that the audience will ever have seen in any artistic medium and it’s all down to Saleh (who has the advantage of being from Egyptian descent). Part of what makes the film so satisfying to watch is that it really does transport you into a sensual visit of modern Egypt. Everything you hear, see and smell are the very cogs that keep it ticking. Creating such an authentic atmosphere only makes this film ten-fold more engaging than the next crime drama.

The cinematography is very well balanced. Pierre Aïm does everything as it should be done. Every shot, every piece of coverage is essential and tells the story in a way as not to take away from what’s happening. Along with the cinematography the plot is also strong. It’s a textbook plot, we have main character who we have developed empathy towards, he goes through conflict and at the end the conflict is either resolved or not. The plot gives arguably the film’s best quality, completeness. This film is such a complete story which is critically pleasing. The plot is accessible and just supplies on demand. Furthermore, the music sticks to the legitimacy and tradition of the film with huge Egyptian cultural icons featuring on the soundtrack such as Abdel Halim Hafez.

Being from Cairo myself I noticed that the translation was (whilst accurate) at times not complete and didn’t show just how comical the film was at times. The only other thing I would pick holes in (and I am picking holes) is that I would have liked to have seen better use of was emptiness in the film, particularly towards the end. Yet, the ending wasn’t rushed but I felt it had the capability of carrying more charge and tension if it had been given the voice of silence.

The way I see it, The Nile Hilton Incident accurately reflects the lazy, laid back and corrupt justice system in modern day Egypt. It’s a socio-political painting of the pre-Arab spring climate. Moreover, what I am so impressed with is that Saleh was able to paint this picture with such an unbiased dependability. This undeniable authenticity and correctness is what makes the film so engaging. With simmering corruption bubbling throughout the film. The film shows how our human lives persist even through these seedy times. Perhaps, overall the film is not the most technically brilliant or creatively captured; especially in the world cinema genre where that is done so well. Nevertheless, what we the audience do get with this film is an utterly complete story told in an even more complete manner which absorbs us away from our own reality. At the end of the day isn’t that what film is all about?

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