This is the true story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager in Rwanda that housed over 1,000 Tutsis refugees during the Rwandan civil war. After the UN turns its back on his hotel, he and the refugees are left unprotected against the rebel forces. Paul is given an exit visa to Belgium for him and his family, however, he would rather give up his life than have the rebels slaughter the "cockaroaches" as the Tutsis were called.
I was shocked that the Americans did not intervene in this situation...until I realized that they, like myself, probably had little interest in the situation until somebody shoved it down their throats. This is a deeply political movie with so many violent scenes (1000 Tutsis laying dead on a road), (prostitutes being cut in two)that children absolutely should not see it.
I cried more than once in this movie. It humbled me.
Plenty, as it turns out. Paul is a Hutu, but his wife, Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo), is a Tutsi, and so, by default, are their children. He is driven by a primal need to save his own family, but as the slaughter continues, more and more friends and neighbors beg him for help.
By the end, Paul shelters 1,200 people in his hotel, saving them from certain death by doing what he always has done: bribing and cajoling the Hutu powers, calling in favors, lying and outsmarting his foes.
He is the Oskar Schindler of Rwanda, a man who becomes a hero by chance and circumstance, using qualities not generally considered heroic. He's no Rambo: He's scared, and conflicted, and full of doubts. Throughout the film, you can see he'd rather just save his family and not have to shoulder this burden of heroism.
Director Terry George (SOME MOTHER'S SON) knows not to get in the way of this harrowing story, which Rusesabagina himself insisted on telling straight, without movie-ish embellishment. It's all true and, given the context, remarkably subtle. (George earned the PG-13 rating by only suggesting the terrible violence, not showing it.)
Still, as the tension builds you can't help but feel you're watching the heir to a classic Western -- perhaps the "High Noon" of modern times, or SHANE -- as this one man steps up to save the town from the marauding bad guys. Of course, he doesn't save the entire town. As with SCHINDLER'S LIST, you're left with the grim knowledge that the people Rusesabagina saved were but a tiny percentage of those who were killed. The triumph comes tempered by the greater tragedy.