Director Anthony Maras’s historical thriller film is an adaptation of the documentary “Surviving Mumbai” (2009). It dramatizes the actions and sacrifices made by the staff of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel: one of the major locations that was targeted by terrorists during the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The ten members of Lashkar-e-Taiba assaulted their victims with high-end weapons and explosives over a four-day period.~Augustine Chay
If we have to keep making action movies out of the most unspeakably horrifying terrorist attacks of the 21st century (and that’s still up for debate), they might as well be as lucid and humane as Anthony Maras’ “Hotel Mumbai.” A dramatization of the November 2008 ambush on India’s largest city, the film — it should go without saying — is harrowing to the extreme. Almost unbearable, in fact.
However, Maras’ powerful debut feature only deserves so much credit for its immaculate craft. It isn’t hard to pillage riveting entertainment from the scene of a real massacre, and scavenging the dead for cheap suspense often is closer to robbing graves than it is to making art. The value of a movie like “Hotel Mumbai,” or “U-July 22,” or “United 93” is not and cannot be measured by how engaging it is to watch. The grisly spectacle is only a means to an end. What redeems “Hotel Mumbai” from morbid opportunism is that, in all but its slickest and most Hollywood moments, the thrills of Maras’ heart-wrenching re-enactment are never an end unto themselves. Even when a desperate Armie Hammer is running around in search of his missing baby, or a stoic Dev Patel is delivering a covert audition to be the next James Bond, the movie is leveraging its sick violence to humanize the people on either side of it.