Reviewed by Rachael Kaines
Tarik Saleh delivers with The Nile Hilton Incident a compelling and taut thriller, that manages to remain engaging and unpredictable right up to its end. The transportation of the specific Scandi thriller style, with all its preoccupation with corruption and mistreatment of unseen minorities to Egypt works very well. A lot of the issues this type of thriller tends to deal, corruption and accountability for crimes, with are tangible and pervasive in the pre-revolutionary Cairo in which the film is set.
Set in Egypt in 2011, right before the revolution, The Nile Hilton Incident follows police commander Noredin Mostafa (Fares Fares) as he goes about his day in Cairo taking bribes and desperately trying to get his television fixed. When a famous singer is murdered in a hotel room, an act witnessed by Sudanese immigrant Selwa, Moredin has to decide if he is willing to pursue the people involved, or obey orders and move on. Moredin’s pursual of the case finds the police officer in a net of corruption to which all powers appear complicit in, as the people start to turn on the incumbent authorities.
The film offers great insight into the corruption in Cairo before the revolution, from police officers working on the ground, all the way up to the highest echelons of government. The mistreatment of every other facet of society, whether that’s women, Sudanese migrants, or the working man, is perfectly portrayed, and doesn’t have to answer the daunting question of whether these things were fixed after the revolution.
Salwa is the absolute heart of the movie. Played by Mari Malek, Salwa is the housekeeper who witnesses both the domestic incident and the murder that follows that incident at the Hilton hotel. She is an interesting, and three-dimensional character — something to be very thankful for in a film that is trying to say something not only about the treatment of women, and the treatment of migrants, but also the treatment of female immigrants — always precarious ground. But, The Nile Hilton Incident pulls it off flawlessly, easily making its points without hand feeding its audience or mishandling the representation it attempts. The victim, Lalena, is a famous Tunisian singer, and we get her and her friend who is trying to find out what happened to her’s perspectives as an antithesis to Salwa’s experience — the same, but different.
Saleh offers incredible insight into a specific moment in Egypt’s history by successfully channelling Scandi noir thriller into the streets of Cairo. Both the cast and the story are compelling, you won’t find a better thriller from current offerings than The Nile Hilton Incident.