Tarik Saleh / Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France / 2017 / 111 mins
At Edinburgh Filmhouse from Fri 30 Mar 2018
Set against the backdrop of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, The Nile Hilton Incident follows Noredin Mustafa (Fares Fares), a corrupt but conflicted chain-smoking cop who gets a chance at redemption when investigating the murder of a beautiful young singer which may involve a well-connected politician. In a race against time, Noredin must find the sole witness to the murder – a Sudanese migrant worker named Salwa (Mari Malek), diving into a web of lies and political corruption in the process.
Directed by Tarik Saleh (Metropia) the film is a hugely enjoyable (if not very consistent) political thriller that is far more indebted to Roman Polanski’s Chinatown than Middle Eastern cinema. It contains all of the classic tropes of noir – femme fatales, seedy nightclubs, the moody antihero with no one to trust and endless plot twists – which works for the most part, but also makes the film become slightly predictable and at times these tropes feel uncomfortably suited to the political allegory of the story.
Filmed in Casablanca and Berlin, cinematographer Pierre Aim does fantastic work at turning the setting of Cairo into a character in itself, with dimly-lit back streets and smoke-filled rooms. Fares as Noredin gives a fantastically gruff performance and often delivers his lines with a wonderfully sardonic wit, occasionally helping to lift the bleak mood of the film.
The film begins to lose focus as it slowly builds towards its final third, but the climax taking place in Tahrir Square is such a rousing and perfectly-executed scene that it is hard not to watch in awe. While The Nile Hilton Incident may not tread much new territory, it breathes much-needed energy into an overly familiar story via a vividly-drawn world where justice is rarely met and everyone has a price.