By Seth Lukas Hynes
Starring Dev Patel, Armie Hammer and Jason Isaacs
Hotel Mumbai is a gripping thriller dramatising the devastating November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, which included a massacre in the famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
Taut and streamlined, Hotel Mumbai does an excellent job of building character through their actions: we become deeply invested in the main characters through their relationships and their myriad acts of courage and selflessness (and, in some cases, cowardice) as they struggle to survive.
The film makes great use of setting and geography in amplifying the tension: not only are Special Forces miles and hours away in New Dehli, but the vast Taj hotel is quickly segmented into smaller and more claustrophobic sections, as the survivors are wrenched apart and the gunmen methodically prowl the hallways.
Hotel Mumbai has sharp sound design and visceral, uncompromising violence, and even the cinematography contributes to the frantic atmosphere. Before the primary attack in the hotel, the camerawork is fixed and steady in the opulent, tightly-controlled interior of the Taj Hotel, but looser and shakier in the bustling streets outside; when the horror of the attacks breaches the hotel, the camerawork inside the hotel becomes more unsteady as the situation breaks down.
Moreover, the plot keeps us dreadfully on our toes with its willingness to kill off characters we’ve grown deeply attached to.
Hotel Mumbai is a harrowing, exceptionally efficient thriller and a gruelling glimpse into a very recent tragedy.