‘Hotel Mumbai’ is an intense experience as much as it is a one-time watch. There’s not much to talk about the plot of this film as it follows very closely the 26/11 incidents with minimal fiction.
Just like all the other movies that are made about India by a foreign director, this one too accidentally steps on some of the worst cliches. Be it the sepia colour tone of Mumbai city (just like Mexico in Hollywood films) or only panning the camera across the slums, or be it the cringingly artificial situation where a white dude orders beef burger in Taj and gets the classic response “we see cows as sacred”, it all makes the viewing experience slightly less enjoyable.
However, once the premises are set, the movie quickly speeds up. After the terrorists get dropped on a small boat to the centre of Mumbai, the attacks begin at perfect timings and that turns out as a chilling surprise to the audience. From there it starts to really guide the viewer’s attention from one incident to the other. It continues to be interesting and gripping for the most part and the movie leaves you among a crowd of survivors clueless and reeling.
‘Hotel Mumbai’ doesn’t actually get you close to any characters although there were some likeable ones in the bunch, like Dev Patel’s Arjun and Nazanin Boniadi’s Zahra; But the one that actually ends up making a deeper impact is a terrorist, in a sequence where he calls home and says “I love you dad” for one last time, as he sees death upfront.
The movie doesn’t flash heroism as many of its Indian counterparts so generously do when it comes to terrorism and national security subjects. Neither do we see politics, bureaucracy or security forces come into play, which could also be the reason why the film feels like it was just a survival saga rather than a story on the actual 26/11 attacks. Be that as it may, it doesn’t go without saying Anthony Maras has done a better job than Ram Gopal Varma with his 26/11 Mumbai Attacks