The Nile Hilton Incident

 

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A modern film noir that just happens to play out in a very special setting.

 
Nile Hilton Incident, The

Fares Fares and Hania Amar

 

Although born in Stockholm, Tarik Saleh's ancestry is Egyptian as well as Swedish and that probably explains what led this writer/director to make The Nile Hilton Incident. It is a piece that carries echoes of film noir from the 1940s (the central figure makes his own investigation into a crime) but there are some additional touches towards the end more reminiscent of the dark thrillers of the 1970s. In any case, our investigator, Noredin Mostafa played by Fares Fares, is not a private eye but an unscrupulous policeman ready to take pay-offs and the setting is Cairo in 2011. At intervals, dates are written up on screen to indicate the passing of the days. However, their real purpose is to highlight the fact that later in that very same month the protests against the authorities in Tahrir Square were to erupt and would make world headlines.

 

The incident of the title is the murder in the hotel of a well-known singer who is the mistress of an important citizen, Hatem Shafiq (Ahmed Selim). This man is not only in charge of a major construction company but also a member of parliament described as a friend of President Mubarak.  Shafiq, initially unaware that he is one of two men seen leaving the dead woman's room by a Sudanese chambermaid named Salwa (Mari Malek), wants to deny his presence in the hotel (he is a married man) and the police are soon ordered to close down the case. Later, however, Shafiq himself hires Noredin to find the dead woman's pimp, Nagy (Hichem Yacoubi), who is now regarded as the likely killer.

 

The setting undoubtedly adds a certain novelty here, but news of corruption in Egypt at the start of 2011 hardly comes as a revelation so the film gains no real weight from this. Instead, it stands or falls as a standard noirish thriller with many twists and turns. As such, it is certainly watchable, but Saleh's screenplay makes little of the potential dramatic development in Noredin's outlook and this is the more obvious because in this role Fares Fares (also an executive producer) proves a rather stolid presence: to the end he remains a decidedly unsympathetic protagonist. It is also the case that, while the narrative works as a genre piece, it is not helped by the fact that as director Saleh is not always an adept storyteller. The very opening throws us rather too brusquely into Noredin's world and, for those with limited knowledge of the way in which the plot will develop, the sudden introduction of Salwa on her way to work seems irritatingly irrelevant. For that matter, despite the aim being dramatic realism, Saleh is not above adding a song in a street scene when the music has no logical source.

 

Ultimately then, The Nile Hilton Incident is in essence no more than genre entertainment and, as such, an acceptable but hardly distinguished example. Given the real-life context in which it is set, the viewer might justifiably have expected something more but the film presents the history as background without gaining any real depth from it.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Fares Fares, Mari Malek, Yaser Ali Maher, Ahmed  Selim, Slimane Dazi, Hania Amar, Hichem Yacoubi, Mohamed Yousry, Mohamed Sanaaeldin Shafie, Ger Duany, Rebecca Simonsson.

 

Dir Tarik Saleh, Pro Kristina Åberg, Screenplay Tarik Saleh, Ph Pierre Aïm, Pro Des Roger Rosenberg, Ed Theis Schmidt, Music Krister Linder, Costumes Louize Nissen.

 

Ostlicht Filmproduktion/Final Cut for Real/Film i Väst/Chimney/Scanbox-New Wave Films.
111 mins. Sweden/Germany/Denmark. 2017. Rel: 2 March 2018. Cert. 15.