Hotel Mumbai is the debut of Australian director Anthony Maras, who endeavoured to dramatise a real-life atrocity. The movie was inspired by the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in India, which killed 164 people.
Hotel Mumbai is one of the two hotels that were brutally attacked. The luxury hotel, where staff are trained to consider “Guests are God”, is targeted and comes under siege for four days.
However, the banning of Hotel Mumbai in the wake of the Christchurch terror attacks highlights what a difficult undertaking Maras faced in his debut film.
The director tightly constructs the narratives from different perspectives. The characters are the guests and staff of the luxury five-star hotel, creating an international ensemble.
The affluent couple, an American husband and a Muslim wife, are with their newborn baby and an Australian nanny. Dev Patel plays a server in this movie, who at first was sent back home for not wearing proper working shoes, but begs for shifts and turns out to be a hero tasked with saving the hotel guests. A Russian businessman who dines in the hotel’s restaurant later becomes protective of the Muslim wife.
Hotel Mumbai is a predictable movie since nothing happens beyond audience’s expectations. Even so, emotions will be driven along with every shot fired.
There are also some scenes which Maras made in an unusual way that give humanity to the terrorists. The attackers, following the instruction of a male voice on the phone, are religious and love their families. A terrorist calls home when he is injured, and he is challenged to kill the last person in the room – the Muslim wife – his fellow believer.
The movie is very well presented. It combines the news footage reporting during the terrorism outbreaks, documentary footage from the inspiring story in the 2008 Mumbai attack, and the scenes inside the hotel where people are put in a life-and-death situation, trying to hide from the four gunmen.
This is a thoughtful thriller retelling the terrorism “as visually breathtaking as it is emotionally electrifying”, as the promotional line says. Not only does it tell the audience how badly people in the attacks suffered, but also the long-lasting effects. It impresses viewers by keeping them curious about the event, and leaving them with a feeling of sympathy towards the victims.
However, following the Christchurch massacre and bombing attacks in Sri Lanka, the audience might question the humanist view of the movie. Because it is not the type of genre that is likely a crowd-pleaser, some might find it offensive and unethical.