Dev Patel and Jason Isaacs lead a terrific ensemble cast for the shattering Hotel Mumbai – and here’s our review.
Debutant director Anthony Maras treads an incredibly tight line with Hotel Mumbai, a dramatic recreation of terrorist attacks just a decade ago. Co-written with John Collee, he poured time into heavy research surrounding the attack on Mumbai’s Taj Hotel, which – in conjunction with other attacks in the city over a four-day period – left over 160 people dead. As such, he tries desperately hard – with some success – to find the human stories in the midst of the attack on the Taj Hotel itself. That includes, at times, turning the gaze onto the terrorists themselves.
It is often a very uneasy film to watch, and not just for the sheer brutality of the violence, and the almost casual nature of the killings depicted. You’re left in no doubt that this was real, and it’s hard to forget, too, that this was relatively recent. Cinema has been here before, of course, with the most obvious touchpoint being Paul Greengrass’s superb United 93, a film whose trailer was booed in cinemas back in 2006 for being too soon after the 2001 terrorist attacks on America. Technically, as well as morally, Maras’s film certainly feels influenced by the work of Greengrass, and there are moments in Hotel Mumbai that are expertly staged, which you simply don’t want to watch. That’s arguably how it should be when tackling a project like this.
It should be noted that the film is bursting with excellent performances. Dev Patel, Anupam Kher, Jason Isaacs and Nazanin Boniadi are amongst the standouts here. And whilst there’s the occasional character conversation that feels just a little movie-ish, there’s a clear drive for authenticity, too.
It’s some achievement and some piece of work, and I found it as a piece of cinema to be extremely tense, hugely shocking, and at times incredibly moving. Jarring, too, oftentimes as a consequence of when the focus switches to the young shooters, receiving their chilling instructions via mobile phone, and carrying out said orders whilst occasionally stumbling over the room service trolley. Days after watching the film, I still find it difficult to answer that question about whether enough time has passed before actually making it. It is, however, a strong film, and a very well put together examination of a horrific slice of recent history. And Maras is a talent worth keeping an eye on.
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