Review: HOTEL MUMBAI Is An Intense And Stressful Thriller Based On True Events

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Nazanin Boniadi (left) as "Zahra" and Jason Isaacs (right) as "Vasili" in director Anthony Maras' HOTEL MUMBAI, a Bleecker Street release. Credit : Mark Rogers / Bleecker Street.

Hotel Mumbai is a new thriller that is the feature debut of director and co-writer Anthony Maras. The film tells the story of the 2008 Taj Hotel terrorist attacks in Mumbai during which a group of jihadists entered the hotel and began methodically and brutally killing everyone in sight. It debuted at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

The story of this movie is sadly very relevant despite the fact that it happened over a decade ago. Terrorism is still a big issue in our world today, and so a film like this, basically a real-life horror movie, can be an excellent tool to show the public the terrible things that were happening in the world back then and are still happening now.

That being said, this message doesn’t entirely shine through. Some will accuse the film of exploiting tragedy, and while that may be a bit of an exaggeration, it doesn’t do enough to deliver a message fitting for a story as potentially impactful as this one. The movie definitely feels like a mainstream nail-biter, but a very good one at that.

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(From L-R) Nazanin Boniadi as “Zahra”, Dev Patel as “Arjun” and Armie Hammer as “David’ in director Anthony Maras’ HOTEL MUMBAI, a Bleecker Street release. Credit : Mark Rogers / Bleecker Street.

This has to be one of the most intense and stressful films to come out in quite a long time. The movie is great at building tension and suspense because the story is so unpredictable. Even though many people are aware of the tragedy and the overall arc of the film can be predicted, the fates of the individual characters are not so easy to spot. Your heart will be pounding for pretty much the full runtime because of the nonstop intensity.

In terms of character development, the movie could have been stronger, but it is effective at doing what needs to be done. The characters have enough of a backstory to make us care for them, although these backstories are largely generic. The ending of the film is particularly frustrating because it feels contrived and forced. That being said, the focus isn’t on the individual characters, but instead paying respect to the event and all those who lost their lives.

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Dev Patel (left) as “Arjun” and Anupam Kher (right) as “Oberoi” in director Anthony Maras’ HOTEL MUMBAI, a Bleecker Street release. Credit : Kerry Monteen / Bleecker Street

All of the actors do a solid job in their roles, but the movie doesn’t give any of them very much to do in terms of range. The film does have three relatively well-known actors in its cast: Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, and Jason Isaacs. However, it is the less well-known stars, Nazanin Boniadi and Anupam Kher, who stand out. These actors infuse the most emotion into their roles of anyone in the cast.

On a technical level, the film was quite strong. The cinematography, editing, and score are all done in a way to make sure that the pacing of the movie is consistent and quick. There is nothing pretty about this film, but there is nothing pretty about the event that takes place within it either. There is also some gore in the movie that is shocking and brutal, although it is used sparingly to great effect.

Overall, Hotel Mumbai was a very impressive thriller. Although the characters could have used a bit more development, the story and pacing are so intense that you will be absorbed into the film anyway.

Hotel Mumbai is now playing in select theaters and expands March 29.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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