In this film, director Wes Anderson creates his own universe, full of colourful characters, old-world charm and witty one-liners. The nice thing about creating your own universe is that you can make it look perfect. Every shot, every little detail and every set is flawless. From lead character Gustave H.'s purple jacket to the title of the newspaper announcing the war (The Trans-Alpine Yodel) - Anderson has given thought and attention to everything.
The story is not very important, because it is merely a vehicle for the stunning visuals, the dark humour and the rapid-fire dialogue. It's all about a hotel concierge, Gustave H., who is being chased by various villains for stealing a painting. All this is set against the backdrop of the Nazis invading Central Europe (although in Anderson's fantasy world they are not called Nazis of course). Some of the scenes are very funny, but there is always a darker tone because of the looming war. Anderson doesn't shy away from extreme violence, but he shows it in an offbeat and almost comical manner.
My favourite scene, in which it all comes together, shows concierges in hotels all over Europe, calling each other to help Gustave H. Each of them is shown in his hotel (with a wonderful fantasy name off course), busy doing some important job like tasting the soup or giving first aid to an unconscious hotel guest, when he is being called away to the telephone. Each hands the job over to his assistant, and answers the phone. This fast succession of little scenes is done so perfectly, it's a great joy to watch.
Ralph Fiennes steals the show as the sophisticated Gustave H., who never despairs, even in the most unfavourable circumstances. He is supported by a large number of star actors, who are sometimes almost unrecognizable. Because of the amount of support actors, some of them are a bit underused. Tilda Swinton gets rather little screen time, as does Harvey Keitel.
The film moves forward at a breakneck speed. You have to be very alert in order not to miss something. The plot is not always very easy to follow, and the dialogue is fast. And there are the great camera angles and the wonderful detailed sets to pay attention to. I think by seeing the film a second time you can discover lots of things you didn't notice the first time.