Borrowing David Fincher's viridian hues, director Tarik Saleh (Swedish, but of Egyptian descent) has created a smoky film noir based on true and recent events. The happenings of The Nile Hilton Incident lead up to the Egyptian revolution on Jan. 25, 2011. In real life, as briefly depicted in the film, Egyptian demonstrators protested the corrupt government, calling for an end to the Mubarak regime. In Saleh's film, corruption is found compacted into a single fictional incident -- yes, at the Nile Hilton — of a murdered singer/prostitute, the Sudanese maid who witnessed the crime and the officials in the business of cover-ups.
The film navigates this world of crooked law enforcement, with lead Fares Fares playing Police Commander Noredin Mostafa, the investigator on the case who is met with shadiness that runs deep in the force. Though Fares is charismatic -- with slicked hair and a habit of chain-smoking -- he struggles to hold viewers' interest past the murder scene. As sometimes happens in noirs, the audience is told whodunit at the beginning, but the best examples of this specialized sub-genre maintain high intensity even as they work backward. The Nile Hilton Incident, despite a stylish, seedy coating, fails to even come close to the canon of greats that have influenced it. Saleh attempts a smart parallel between his story and the larger, real one that serves as his backdrop, but the revolution here seems a tired afterthought. Sadly, the movie ends up playing out like an unmemorable Law & Order episode.