We don’t watch Hotel Mumbai, we experience it. Filmmaker Anthony Maras makes his feature film debut with a dramatization so intense and effective that the audience has no choice but to grit their teeth and squint their eyes as they muster through the film’s realistic reenactments. I haven’t felt that way since Paul Greengrass’ heart-wrenching portrayal of 9/11 in United 93 (2006).
Mumbai, India was turned into a war zone overnight in 2008, as a group of terrorists targeted a number of prime destinations; including the prestigious Hotel Mumbai as one of the final stops. As the night is caught on various news outlets, the exclusive hotel became a refuge for those trying to stay safe. That plan collapsed, however, when some of the shooters still found a way inside and proceeded to open fire with their automatic weapons.
Co-written by John Collee (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) and Maras, Hotel Mumbai tells different stories; all key parts in this tragic tale of survival. Included are well-rounded perspectives from the guests and the hotel staff, and the film earns kudos for trying to give a motivated perspective from the brainwashed, manipulated killers. However for the latter characters, the stone-cold actors make it hard for the audience to find empathy. When the film turns into a survival action movie, these killers are further devalued as two-dimensional villains while some of the guests make head-bangingly frustrating decisions (notably Armie Hammer’s David who refuses to sit still or think logically).
The filmmakers, however, have maintained a faithful adaptation that both honours people who were affected by this event and teaches a noble lesson of loyalty and unity. The movie may be too much for some movie goers to handle but, really, Hotel Mumbai should not be missed.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie