Film review: Hotel Mumbai

Mumbai is under siege, in this gripping tale about survival, sacrifice, and humanity amidst inhuman acts.

Australian director Anthony Maras’ ‘Hotel Mumbai’ depicts the tragic massacre that unfolded on 26 to 29 November 2008 in harrowing detail. Utilising his documentary background, Maras births a drama that ranges from arresting to poetic. While lined with fictional aspects that re-package a foreign tragedy to serve a mostly western audience, this feature tries to separate the radicalised from the mere religious, with Maras effectively showcasing the latent racism bred by fear against the backdrop of the Taj Hotel siege.

Reconstructing the events through the subplots of several characters, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ utilises its cast in a partially myopic narrative that captures an earnest reflection of the people in view. The film boasts quality performances by Dev Patel, Nazanin Boniadi, Anupam Kher, Armie Hammer, Tilda Cobham-Harvey, Jason Isaacs and Manoj Mehra.

Patel personifies compassion as Arjun, one of the Hotel’s waiters, who does everything in his power to ensure the safety of the guests even at the expense of racial conjecture. Kher’s Oberoi, based on the real-life head chef, is an honest portrayal that shows the bravery and empathy of a man whose heroism lives on in all those he had a hand in saving. Boniadi’s Zahra is resilient in the face of death, determined to be reunited with her son. Zahra’s husband David (Hammer), their nanny, Sally (Harvey) and Russian high roller, Vasili (Isaacs) are all examples of sacrifice, and the will to act despite risk in times of great terror. Mehra’s Houssam gives us an insight into the disillusioned, radicalised ideals of a young man-turned-terrorist, coming to grips with the severity of his actions, while a turn of character has him question his own.

Topical in subject matter, the film simply explores the tragedy of senseless violence committed by those warped by militant and religious influences, and attempts to make audiences feel that though hate manifests in new forms before our eyes, it’s hope that is the symbol worth holding onto.

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