BEIRUT: With the recent headlines that are covering the news, and mass shootings becoming an unfortunate and terrifying occurrence, it seems that the release of HOTEL MUMBAI is more relevant that it intended to be.
A vivid recounting of the 2008 siege of the famed Taj Hotel by a group of terrorists in Mumbai, India, the film follows the dedicated hotel staff, among them the renowned chef Hemant Oberoi and a waiter, who choose to risk their lives to protect their guests.
As the world watches on, a desperate couple is forced to make unthinkable sacrifices to protect their newborn child. Director Anthony Maras marks his directorial debut and does so with such a clear understanding of suspense, but more importantly an understanding of humanity and the resilience of the human spirit.
This is what makes HOTEL MUMBAI such a powerful and resounding film. Maras does not only fully dramatize the horrific events that took place, but also makes the hotel, in and of itself, a prominent character within the film.
Using his camera more like a CCTV camera during some of the escape sequences, Maras places the audience in quite a helpless position as it witnesses characters slowly trying to evade the terrorists while geographically seeing the improbability of survival.
The ensemble cast all bring their A-game, and deliver some of the most gut-wrenching performances that make it impossible for the audience not to care for each of their well-being. Dev Patel is the real standout here and his growth as an actor is quite evident. The range he expresses throughout the sequence of events within the film is captivating.
Jason Isaacs never fails to be a joy to watch and his role as Vasili, who is a composite of several real-life people who were in the Taj at the time of the attacks, including a playboy business magnate and a special-forces Army officer, is such a memorable character. The advantage that Maras and co. had with this film is that not many of the survivors, guests, and hotel staff are known by name, so it allowed the writers to take inspiration from real life people and ensure that the stakes were high from the get-go.
The film’s social and cultural awareness is also something to behold. HOTEL MUMBAI gives the terrorists a lot of screen time, and it's in the brush strokes of the story that their characteristics and backstory begin to arise.
The film does present the carnage but it also presents these tiny character moments where the audience sees that the young terrorists lacked an education, they came from poverty, and some are trying to help their families. They’re not flat two-dimensional characters but are given deeper issues which need to be addressed.
At its core, the film does not shy away from the violence, nor does it shy away from the dangers of blind faith in men who are in positions of religious power, for at the end of the day: Extremism breeds extremism, and hate begets hate.
The film draws audiences into the epicenter of the attack and highlights ordinary people from all walks of life whose responses to this nightmarish scenario reveal the courage and resilience that unite us when we need it most.
HOTEL MUMBAI is a powerful and intense reminder that hatred is blind and that hope will always win.
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