Directed by Anthony Maras, Hotel Mumbai is based on the real-life terrorist attacks that took place in India in 2008. Playing out more as a dramatic thriller than character piece, Mumbai is a sobering film that bears even more weight in light of the recent events of Christchurch, NZ. In this regard, Mumbai features solid performances from leads Dev Patel (who continues to impress as he grows as an actor), Hammer and Jason Isaacs. Still, it’s star Boniadi who steals the film, playing a Muslim mother with strength and ferocity.
Based on the 2009 documentary Surviving Mumbai, Maras’ primary interest is to throw the viewer into the moment. While there are some who would argue that the film lacks character development, his emphasis simply is focused upon the weight of the tragedy itself. In this moment, all victims are equal, regardless of race or social status. In light of this, there is a power to the film that showcases the horror of modern terrorism and the value of everyone affected by it.
In the midst of the tragedy, however, one of the most interesting motifs is Maras’ conversations about the nature of God. Throughout the film, God remains at the forefront of people’s minds, to various degrees of certainty. Interestingly, whereas one might expect that these circumstances may cause them to cry out to the Divine, instead the hotel patrons wrestle with the fact that these moments are proof that there is no God. By contrast, however, in the midst of their attacks, terrorists proclaim their violence in the name of God.
By holding these two differing views up against one another, Maras creates a world where the Divine leads directly to darkness. In Hotel Mumbai, God calls others to create chaos and fear in His name while those who follow are those who destroy. (Is it any wonder that those who fear for their lives would feel abandoned?) With this in mind, the film is a bold statement for a culture that is wrestling with the roots of evil in light of terrifying tragedy. After all, in the absence of light, what can we look to in order to break the darkness?
As a gripping thriller, Hotel Mumbai delivers in just about every way. Though graphic at times, the film is haunting and powerful with strong performances from its entire case. However, the most terrifying aspect of the film is the reality of evil that continues to haunt our world.
Hotel Mumbai is in theatres now.
To hear our interview with actor Anupam Kher, click here.