HOTEL MUMBAI, walking back uneasy to the scene of the crime

“Hotel Mumbai” is based on real events that took place in November 2008, when ten members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani Islamic terrorist organization, carried out an insanely-bold series of attacks on Mumbai, starting from the rail station and making their way to the Taj hotel where a number of guests were staying, including American ones.

A thriller directed by Anthony Maras and co-written with John Collee, the film is adapted from the 2009 documentary “Surviving Mumbai.” This feature film stars Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Anupam Kher, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Jason Isaacs, Suhail Nayyar and Natasha Liu Bordizzo.

Dev Patel plays an employee at the Taj Hotel. Stuck inside, with the clock running out on them, a group of various guests and hotel workers attempt to live through the attacks.
“Hotel Mumbai” imparts a kind of claustrophobia on the viewer, a sense of terror, something about the unending mercilessness of terrorists that strikes really close. As the Islamist automatons carry out their boss’s instructions, communicated to them via phone lines, a real sentiment of horror settles in.

Maras gives an almost workman-like and straight-forward retelling of events, never once delving into the exploitative, giving his film a feeling of something sickening growing with dread throughout.

“Hotel” avoids some of the cliches found in other movies like it. Americans aren’t going to jump in through the window to save everyone, although here’s wishing they would. Much of the script turns its attention to the Indian cast. With films like this one, leave your political ideologies at home and open up to the story on its own terms, with the characters. Sometimes, however, the politics aren’t so subtle, so it’s distracting, and the occasionally sanctimonious “Hotel Mumbai” suffers in that regard. There’s also some silly comic relief, including a Russian oligarch who discusses prostitute nipple size and an extended gag about Muslim terrorists tricking each other into eating pork in between murdering people. Awkward.

Film opens this Friday.

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