Director: Anthony Maras
Starring: Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Jason Isaacs, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Anupam Kher, Alex Pinder
Written by: John Collee and Anthony Maras
Running Time: 123 mins
Release date: 27th September 2019
It is terribly hard to take events that happened in real life and place them on film without making them exploitative. Some directors, Paul Greengrass, for example, manage that balance perfectly. Take United 93, the story of the passengers caught up in one of the planes during 9/11. Never once did you feel any form of disrespect for those heroic people. The event itself was shocking enough without it being used just as entertainment. Thankfully the same can be said about Hotel Mumbai, a dramatisation of the horrific events in Mumbai in 2008. This isn’t a film about violence and death but about the heroics of a few ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
The Taj Hotel is an exclusive and magnificent building where the rich and famous stay while in Mumbai. One night, a group of terrorists caused chaos around the city by randomly shooting people in various locations. As a safe haven, people headed to the hotel, only to find that this was a venue chosen by the terrorists. Risking their own lives to save others, the hotel staff have to be cunning and calm in order to keep the guest safe.
First-time feature director Anthony Maras has produced an incredibly tense and harrowing movie experience. We follow the terrorists arriving into Mumbai and their plight, leading to the capturing of the hotel. Like a traditional disaster movie, we get introduced to the key players, from the waiter, Arjun, a family man who arrives in the exclusive building with sandals and ends up being an unlikely hero, to the American, David, along with his wife, child and nanny and Russian businessman, Vasili, all of whom are staying in the hotel.
Where the film is works is the building of the tension. These men, who randomly and without any form of reaction, shoot the innocent victims, no one is safe. You spend your time wondering if each character is going to be the target. The wrong decision by someone and they will end up dead. There is no real Hollywood style hero on show, just ordinary people. As the situation grows ever worst, with the police surrounding the hotel but not having any experience with armed terrorists, you feel an impending doom. Unless you remember the events of that day (which sadly I had forgotten) you won’t know the outcome.
The pacing and overall film making skills of Maras are definitely on show here. His ability to make you care about each of the characters, while never lingering on the deaths or the gore, makes for a really unsettling and sometimes uncomfortable experience. This is helped by a superb cast on terrific form. As the waiter, Anjun, Dev Patel excels, bringing to life a man who is willing to risk his own life for complete strangers. He commands the screen with quiet confidence. Jason Isaac as the Russian, is also very good in a small, yet significant role.
This is not any easy film to sit through but an admirable one and one that will linger in the memory long after it has finished. Hotel Mumbai is an electrifying debut that will have you emotionally drained by the end. It demands to be seen on the big screen but if you cannot find a cinema showing it, then turn to Sky Movies. This simultaneous streaming and cinema release will allow more to see it. It is a must see.