04th Apr2019

‘Hotel Mumbai’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Dev Patel, Nazanin Boniadi,  Armie Hammer, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Amandeep Singh, Suhail Nayyar, Kapil Kumar Netra, Alex Pinder, Vipin Sharma, Anupam Kher, Jason Isaacs | Written by John Collee, Anthony Maras | Directed by Anthony Maras


It’s somewhat difficult to critically asses a project such as Anthony Maras’ directorial debut feature film Hotel Mumbai, a reflective biopic drama that covers the abhorrent attacks in India that took place over a four-day period in November 2008. As a critic, you’re situated in a trepid grey area of sorts. Lodged between a rock and a hard place considering the film is crafted to showcase this traumatising event and you’re hoping the film itself never falls into the territory of exploitation. However, you’ve also got to critically articulate asses a response to the filmmaking without being tone-deaf to the real-life tragedy itself. Thankfully while Hotel Mumbai is a cluster of ranging emotions, it is a terrifying but honest and compelling piece of filmmaking, that truly honours those who defied evil and celebrates their humanity in a captivating visceral intensity.

The sheer haunting factor alone knowing that you’re watching such a shockingly disturbing dramatic narrative (especially this specific situation of the attacks on Mumbai) that truly occurred similar to that of Hotel Rwanda and Zero Dark Thirty etc. are always a daunting notion when sitting in the auditorium. It’s a constant knife edge of falling into informative or exploitative territory. It’s an incredibly fine line that Mara’s film thankfully falls into the former camper and not the latter. This isn’t a generic action film nor is it necessarily a drama. Categorized more so as a melding of biopic drama standpoint of the event itself. In simpler terms, it’s a film of collective stories and resulting characters who embroiled into this tragedy of the hotel itself. The emotional weight the film carriers are both deeply poignant and weighted in a haunted captivating impact that hits incredibly tough to the core.

The sheer atmospheric edge of proceedings is nothing less than razor sharp. Of which is a credit to the outstanding performances from the entire cast. Dev Patel has come such a long way since his days on the cult British TV show Skins to this point ,this specific moment of his career. He becomes more and more incredible in each new project and his role as Arjun in Hotel Mumbai is no different. His screen presence flourishes with captivating subtle moments of emotional gravitas and territory, encapsulating a grand resonating screen presence with beautiful delivery of both poignant and aggressive dialogue. Nazanin Boniadi and Armie Hammer, as couple Zahra and David, hold the films strongest emotionally compelling thread as they are separated from their newborn baby and nanny, played by the terrific Tilda Cobham-Hervey.

The thread is a constant cluster of torment for its audience. One moment you’re filled with joy and then a second later you’re filled with the most assertive dread imaginable. It’s this specific constant back and forth thematic arc that propels this already traumatising story to a far more compelling piece of cinema that is undoubtedly the heart and centre of the film. Respectively both Boniadi and Hammer are terrific as their characters. Putting forth demanding and committed performances. The latters participation perhaps a little stark to the project’s rather low-key actor and actress casting, for a more resonating and gripping feature, although it never overly capitulates the film and thankfully the event itself.

The documentary aesthetic is superbly implemented by director Anthony Maras and cinematographer Nick Remy Matthews. It is magnificently assertive and gripping with just how absorbing the technique is within the context of the terror and resulting trauma of the plot. You’re ultimately a fly on the wall of sorts witnessing this horror ordeal conclusively as if you were there in the midst. The marvellous way in which the camera ducks and weaves, as well as engineered to be effectively severe and uncomfortably tight circumstances and makes the unfolding fear and fright evoke that very same unimaginable feeling that occurred in that hotel eleven years ago.

Hotel Mumbai is on limited release across the US now; the film opens in the UK on May 3rd.


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