Preview of the film: ‘Hotel Mumbai’ | Movie previews

In November 2008, members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an extremist terrorist organization based in Pakistan, ambushed Mumbai, carrying out large-scale coordinated attacks on 12 different sites in India’s largest city. The siege lasted for days and ultimately claimed the lives of over 160 people. A brutally realistic and heartbreaking recreation of that horrific event, “Hotel Mumbai” focuses on one of those attacks on the upscale Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, a luxury oasis in the heart of the city.

In his directorial debut feature, Anthony Maras creates an often excruciatingly suspenseful procedure, attempting to humanize and put a face (or more faces) to tragedy. His screenplay, co-written with John Collee, quickly introduces us to several people who will become our focal points. All of the characters in the film – with the exception of the hotel’s world-renowned chef, Hemant Oberoi (AnupamKher) – are fictional composites of real individuals.

There’s Arjun (Dev Patel), a working class Sikh man who works as a waiter and struggles to provide for a wife and baby at home. Wealthy young married couple David and Zahra (Armie Hammer and NazaninBoniadi) arrive at the hotel with their baby and nanny (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) in tow. There’s also a lewd Russian businessman (Jason Isaacs), who provides the film with much-needed – albeit brief – comedic relief moments.

Other characters drift in the dark, but Maras is more interested in creating a collective sense of who was inside the hotel. The Taj has been targeted because of its importance as a symbol of Indian wealth and prosperity, and the inhabitants of its walls are a cross-section of various races, ethnicities, and classes. As disaster strikes, there is an urgent need for solidarity as they are doing all they can to survive.

Once the chaos begins, Maras does not attempt to tone down the horror of the attack. The violence of the film is never cavalier and the director makes sure that each death has a meaning. The action (though it seems offhand to call it that) is well staged, and Maras strives to keep us located on the hotel’s many floors, as employees and guests scatter and hide. wherever they can.

Maras doesn’t seek thrills or excitement, but his film cannot avoid resorting to a film-style plot, a perhaps inevitable side effect of turning this story into a cohesive narrative that would lend itself to a film. . There is a certain Hollywood feel that people are simply portrayed as targets and that we are meant to care about (a dichotomy that unfortunately ends up bringing white characters to the fore. As exhausting as it is, “Hotel Mumbai” is no less captivating.

The film seeks to honor and commemorate the many displays of heroism in the midst of chaos. Much of that courage came from the hotel staff, many of whom stayed in the building to help and made great sacrifices to keep guests safe. In a gruesome scene, hotel front desk workers are held up by the assailants, who attempt to coerce them into phoning customers to get them out of their rooms. Staff members are executed with frightening efficiency when they refuse.

Even the perpetrators of the attack receive bits of humanity. We are not asked to sympathize with them, but to see them as they were: naive and scared young men, brainwashed and manipulated by extremists into doing the most horrific deeds. We watch them receive encouragement and instructions over the phone from Brother Bull, the terrorist mastermind behind the attack, and the film is clear in its condemnation of this radicalism.

Strictly speaking, “Hotel Mumbai” is not a horror film, although in many ways it shares a similar focus. By showing us what society fears at our particular moment, and by trying to understand it in a way, the film attempts a kind of exorcism.

But watching actual atrocities reproduced in a movie can only raise the question of whether their dramatization is exploitation. I can’t help but question the need for a movie like this (or others like it like “United 93” and “July 22” by Paul Greengrass) and its portrayal of death and suffering. actual on the screen. Filmmakers seem to have their hearts in the right place; it is clear that what we are meant to gain from our viewing is the heroism and courage shown in the face of unspeakable horror. Despite these noble intentions, I’m not sure the film manages to fully justify its existence.

In light of the recent Christchurch tragedy, it was announced that “Hotel Mumbai” has been pulled from cinemas in New Zealand. But there is still a recent incident, isn’t there?

It can feel like our society is stuck in a never-ending cycle of one unspeakable tragedy after another, and it’s increasingly likely that movies like this will open near a horror. real. And when we watch these events unfold so regularly in the news, I’m not sure I can relive them in the movies.


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