Hotel Mumbai was directed by Adelaide’s Theo Maras, filmed partially in Adelaide and also stars Tilda Cobham Harvey. Everyone who went to see it at the Adelaide Film Festival Screening did so with some pride – the session sold out, and the film feels big and universal.
The film is a fictionalised account of the 2008 terrorist bombings in Mumbai centred on the attack at the Taj Hotel. Actual news coverage from 2008 is used to touch on the key milestones from the outside, leaving the film to explore the well worn, but perennially interesting question – how must it feel to be the people on the other side of the camera? The events unfold efficiently, with an emotional impact uniquely informed by the claustrophobic setting of the deserted Taj hotel, and the fatigue of doing so over several days.
Interestingly, from the opening scenes and sporadically throughout Maras plays with fleshing out the terrorists themselves. They are initially shown as naive young men about to carry out the orders of a disembodied voice heard through headphones which goes unheard to the public. As they travel by taxi through an idyllically shot Mumbai, the potential hubris of the ultra wealthy clients of the hotel that they target is hinted at.
But the film pulls back – the brutality of their actions is highlighted, via context and memorably through sound and silence and can only be condemned after. The victims, despite their flaws are capable of selfless heroic acts. Hotel Mumbai was a satisfying watch whose universality – the kind that comes with a big budget film, it’s set pieces, Dev Patel playing a typically aloof and good natured hero, was a feat to watch and contemplate. It dangled precariously, but never crossed any lines with the potentially political nature of its source material.