Hotel Mumbai

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Hotel Mumbai
dir Anthony Maras
scr John Collee, Anthony Maras
prd Basil Iwanyk, Gary Hamilton, Mike Gabrawy, Julie Ryan
with Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Jason Isaacs, Anupam Kher, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Alex Pinder, Gaurav Paswala, Angus McLaren, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Amandeep Singh, Suhail Nayyar
release US 29.Mar.19,
UK 27.Sep.19
18/Australia 2h03

isaacs kher cobham-hervey

boniadi, patel and hammer
Diving straight into the horrific events of November 2008, this expertly made film traces a path of terror across Mumbai. The filmmaking is so realistic that the brutal violence can't help but shake the audience, especially since it's genuinely thrilling. It's also so relentlessly full-on that it's often difficult to watch. But because it's finely put together to honour the victims and survivors, it becomes deeply important.
A group of armed Pakistani terrorists arrives by boat in Mumbai, taking taxis to their designated destinations, starting at the train station. At the palatial Taj Hotel, VIP guest Zahra (Boniadi) arrives with her American architect husband David (Hammer), their infant son and their nanny Sally (Cobham-Hervey). There's also a Russian oligarch Vasili (Isaacs) holding a private party in his suite. As gunmen invade the hotel, waiter Arjun (Patel) tries to get the diners to safety, but the standoff continues for hours as local police struggle to respond to such an organised, military-style attack.
Director-cowriter Maras' attention to detail is remarkable, catching tiny things that make the fictional characters and situations ring bracingly true-to-life. The script also tries to get into the minds of the killers, who are encouraged through phone calls that rant about inequality and spur them to murder innocent people in cold blood. This is deeply horrific, as they simply shoot any man, woman or child who moves, taking higher-profile guests hostage. So of course sequences involving a fussing baby are almost unbearable. And there are a thousand guests in this hotel.

Amid a wide range of characters, the film focuses on a handful of people who set off on missions that are both heroic and foolhardy. The entire cast is bracingly authentic, vividly revealing the fear these people are fighting through. Standouts include Patel, as a thoughtful, intelligent young father who refuses to give in to hate. Hammer and Boniadi vividly capture parental desperation, which makes them both impulsive and courageous. Later, the underused Isaacs' stubborn Vasili leads a seriously bullheaded escape attempt.

Thankfully, Maras spares the audience by staging shootings slightly off-camera. The results are still hideous, of course, while the duration and scope of the attack is simply overwhelming. There is barely a moment in this film that isn't fraught with heart-stopping suspense, and some of the acts of heroism are emotionally shattering. Which makes the final 20 minutes even more wrenching. This isn't entertainment, it feels like history.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 25.Sep.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall