Hotel Mumbai is definitely not that movie.
A dramatisation of the 2008 terror attack at the luxury Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, the movie is a tense and heart-pounding experience.
It vividly recreates the horror of the hundreds of guests and staff trapped inside the building when a group of heavily armed and merciless terrorists laid siege to the hotel as part of a co-ordinated, citywide strike.
By the time the smoke cleared, 31 people were dead.
Understandably, not everyone is keen to sign themselves up for a dose of cinematic anxiety, especially on their day off.
But its star Armie Hammer, perhaps not surprisingly, wants you to get past that reticence and see it anyway.
“This is not a movie that’s strictly about a terror event,” he told news.com.au. “Yes, that happened, but really this movie is about the indomitable nature of the human spirit, it’s about hope and it’s about what people who come from different aspects of life can do and survive if they work together.
“There’s a terror attack in this movie but it’s not glorified and it’s not exploited.
“Unfortunately, we live in a world where this is happening more and more, especially in America, this could happen at almost any given moment, at any place.
“So to see how these people got through it and survived it, I think this is an important movie to see, given how the world we’re in is shaping up.”
Hotel Mumbai, directed by Australian Anthony Maras was filmed in, of all places, Adelaide with exterior shots done on location in the Indian city.
It also stars Dev Patel, Jason Isaacs, Nazanin Boniadi, Anupam Kher and Tilda Cobham-Hervey.
The sensitivity of depicting a real-life event that affected real-life people only a decade earlier, so very much in living memory, is something those involved took seriously.
Both Patel and Hammer play composite characters that are amalgams of real-life people, which Hammer described as having “double the responsibility to do it right”.
While neither man personally met with any survivors during the preparation for the film, Patel said Maras and writer John Collee had compiled a “bible” of information.
“We had access to these amazing documents and transcripts of conversations that happened with the police and the survivors — and tons of footage.”
Hammer added: “Anthony comes from short films and the documentary world so he had compiled so much information already.
“We had weeks of rehearsals in Adelaide before we started shooting so it was really about reading the incredible stories of these people and what they had been through, listening to the telephone recordings and working as a group to figure out the emotional journey of what they went through.”
At Hotel Mumbai’s premiere last year at the Toronto International Film Festival, the real-life Chef Oberoi (played by Kher in the film), who courageously risked his own safety to hide guests during the attack, was in attendance and was greeted with a standing ovation at the end of the film.
“And then we started crying on stage,” Hammer exclaimed.
Patel said Oberoi was overwhelmed by the response.
“I remember coming out of the screening, just holding onto each other and you could see such a mixture of emotions,” Patel said.
“The film is very present — it’s heart-pounding and it’s terrifying. For someone like him, I’m sure it ignites some scary memories. But he was proud that we had the courage to tell the story and not pull any punches.”
Hotel Mumbai is in cinemas from today
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