Thrillers based on real-life horror are difficult to judge. There is always going to be that air of exploitation when it comes to depicting these tragic and very real events. It is never going to settle right – seeing people on screen who represent countless amounts of people who died at the hand of terrorism. Still, if it happened, then someone is bound to put it on film.
Hotel Mumbai treads a fine line but adheres more to the human side of tragedy.
Directed by Anthony Maras, the film revolves around the horrific Mumbai attacks in 2008 in which 10 terrorist opened fire at multiple locations throughout the city. The main focus of the film takes place in the revered five-star hotel the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Four of the terrorists found their way into the hotel and slaughtered anyone they’d see, taking hostages they deemed rich and powerful. Arjun, a kindly hotel waiter and his strict boss Oberoi take care of the guests which include heiress Zahra, her American husband David, their son Cameron, and their nanny Sally. There’s also ex-Spetznaz Vasili. Together, they try to face the assailants and survive a three-day assault on the hotel.
Hotel Mumbai is a severe movie that captures the devastation of the 2008 events. It is made up of intimate scenes at real-life news footage that depicts the fear and awfulness of the situation. Dark, small rooms holding fifty or more people as the assault levels up gives weight to the claustrophobia and intense situation those real life hotel guests and staff lived-through.
The performances from the likes of Jason Isaacs and Armie Hammer are OK but really it is Dev Patel as Arjun who shines. Patel trajectory is astonishing – with each performance he does, he is captivating. As Arjun, he plays an ambitious and hard-working man who puts others before himself. Trying to rescue as many as he can, Arjun is resourceful and willing to put himself on the line for others. Yet Patel also carries the burden of his role here – thinking constantly about his wife and child at home. It is al layered performance and there are plenty of scenes with him that’ll have you in tears.
Hotel Mumbai suffers from feeling exploitative. As faceless people are murdered and their bodies are left strewn on the floor of the hotel, you can’t help but feel uncomfortable and uneasy, wondering exactly what is the aim of the movie in the first place. Still, Maras’ film is at its best when it focuses on those inside the hotel wishing to survive. Whether it is the workers who stay to help the guests or even those who, understandably, escape because of their family – Maras and the film does not judge the plight of those caught inside.
It’s with this approach where lies its strength and, as you end with real-life footage of survivors, you hope that this was its intention.
HOTEL MUMBAI is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now.