The distributors in the US and major international territories who bought Anthony Maras’ Hotel Mumbai look set to cash in on largely positive reviews after the world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Critics generally lauded the gripping account of the terrorist attacks on the opulent Taj Mahal Palace Hotel over four days in 2008, while some found it relentless and disturbing.
Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi play a recently married couple whose whose infant baby is stuck upstairs with their nanny (Tilda Cobham-Hervey). Dev Patel plays a quick-on-his feet waiter, Anupam Kher is the hotel’s courageous head chef and Jason Isaacs is a womanizing Russian businessman.
The four assailants played by Amandeep Singh, Suhail Nayyar, Yash Trivedi and Gaurav Paswala roam the lobby and hallways, taking out guests and employees in cold-blooded fashion.
On social media blogger Pat Mullen praised the strong ensemble cast in a relentlessly intense film that has the thrills of Argo and the emotional punch of Hotel Rwanda.
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich said: “If we’re really going to keep making action movies out of the most unspeakably horrific terrorist attacks of the 21st century, they might as well be this expertly made and humane. Dev Patel doesn’t touch a gun here, but he’d sure be a great James Bond.”
Screen Daily’s Sarah Ward found the thriller works best as a film of quiet compassion and sober heroism rather than bold, action-packed acts, and Maras knows how to wring the requisite tension out of the tersest and most vivid moments.
But she said the racially motivated tensions among those fighting for their lives are handled in movie-of-the-week fashion and the score by Volker Bertelmann (an Academy Award-nominee for Lion) tugs at the heartstrings a little too emphatically.
The Wrap’s Matt Donnelly said: “While devastating, and at times too much for the premiere audience at the Princess of Wales to bear, Maras is confident and unflinching in this portrait of the “mindless” terror.
“He is also masterful in delivering a range of emotions (including laughs, mostly thanks to an icy playboy portrayed by Jason Isaacs) and other small rewards for viewers stepping up for this real-life nightmare. There’s also impressive use of suspense here, as innocents weigh their escape options.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Jordan Mintzer was ambivalent, praising the gripping execution and the level of verisimilitude that is so high that when Maras cuts in documentary footage it’s hard to tell it apart from the fiction.
But he faulted the over-familiarity of the triumph-over-adversity tale and the two-dimensional characters. Even so, he reckoned the film could find “a decent following” in the US and overseas.
Produced by Basil Iwanyk, Gary Hamilton, Mike Gabrawy, Julie Ryan, Andrew Ogilvie and Jomon Thomas, the film co-written by Maras and John Collee will have its Australian premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival. Icon is planning a January 10 release.
Bleecker Street and ShivHans Pictures co-acquired the US rights after the producers struck a deal with The Weinstein Company after the latter declared bankruptcy. ShivHans has financed a number of Bleecker Street features including the Oscar-nominated Trumbo and Danny Collins.
The distributor had two other releases at TIFF – Wash Westmoreland’s Colette starring Keira Knightley and Dominic West, and Elizabeth Chomko’s What They Had starring Hilary Swank, Taissa Farmiga, Michael Shannon and Josh Lucas.
Hamilton’s Arclight Films sold Hotel Mumbai to a bunch of territories including the Benelux (eOne), France (TF1), Germany (SquareOne), Italy (M2), Japan (Gaga) and Spain (Inopia Films).