Friday, 21 January 2022

Hotel Mumbai (2018)

This is the story, based on true events, of the terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008 in which a total of 175 people died and 300 were injured. It is a dramatised account of course and to some degree there's no way of knowing if some of the nitty-gritty details are actually true, but this should take nothing away from this film being a close-enough testament to the horror suffered by those caught up in the events.

The inexperienced Australian Director Anthony Maras takes the chair and does a fine job pulling together the strings of the story, depicting the terror and horror facing these people, keeping tension so high that this becomes a wide-eyed, edge-of-the-seat thriller in its own right, regardless of the truth. The only question remains is as to whether or not such films should be made as a testament to the people there and what they went through versus potential exploitation of their grief for a commercial, money-making film for the masses.

It certainly opened my eyes and I came away feeling like I had been educated regarding the historic event, which I do remember seeing unfold on the news from the safety the other side of the earth. I had no idea about the finer details and the culture which was present, the rich/poor issues of India's financial capital and how people behaved, pandering to wealthy westerners as they scraped together a living from long, hard shifts.

Whatever your world view of the rights and wrongs of terrorism and injustices - and what could and/or should be done about it - this can indeed be viewed as a thriller of a film. Looking at it with those eyes, it delivers. The focus is on a few key characters, building enough knowledge of their backgrounds - and attitudes to what is going on around them for the audience, works well. The viewer gets invested in the people at the hub of this. There's insight into the religious terrorists, too, how they appear to have been promised money for their families and glory in paradise on their death, though some of them start to question if this is really true, as events unfold.

We follow a waiter, employee of the hotel, from the start of his day. We see how he lives and how tight money is. He remains the central focus through much of the film and we learn much of the culture through his eyes and actions. Ordinary people become heroes. Ordinary people who are willing to sacrifice everything for their position in employment - where in this seriously posh hotel, the 'guest is god' and local people are second-rate humans. To some degree it's turned into a 'feel good' movie as these heroes emerge - or are sacrificed. The waiter is led by his boss, the head chef, who similarly demonstrates a brave and principled attitude to how he conducts himself and prioritises the guests over (almost) all else.

The lead is taken by Dev Patel who we know from The Green Knight, Lion, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Slumdog Millionaire and he lands it quite brilliantly. Armie Hammer is worthy of note too as one of the guests trying to find his wife, daughter and Nanny in the chaos and Anupam Kher as the head chef. The cast all do a terrific job and are very convincing. There are some underdeveloped characters who could have been explored more, but it generally hung together well.

There are also stories unfolding for the viewer amongst the guests - and how the terrorists are treating them and what they plan to do with them. It's all pretty harrowing as we witness first-hand the religious violence, blood and grizzly death doled out left, right and centre. It's shot in a tense, exacting way which gives us an insight into all sides of the story and the people in the mix.

The film hardly ever slows down, it's frantic pace reflecting (presumably) how the events happened, full of fast-moving terror. The effects are convincing and sets look authentic. It's not an easy watch, but it's gripping to the end, quite superbly acted by almost all and shot frantically like all good thrillers. Very highly recommended.

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