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In November of 2008, ten terrorists armed with automatic weapons and grenades, laid siege to Mumbai, India, attacking a railway station, a café, a Jewish center, a hospital and two hotels. Over the course of four days 164 people were killed, including 31 at the storied Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. The upcoming movie Hotel Mumbai tells the story of the attack on the Taj and as you might expect, the trailer teases a tense and terrifying film. Check it out:
If you were to just watch this trailer (minus the mini-trailer in the first 5 seconds) with no knowledge of these events or what Hotel Mumbai is about, you might think that this was a light, uplifting story about experiencing other cultures, in the vein of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or something from a Wes Anderson movie. The music and images play into that for the first 30 seconds or so until the title card pops up letting you know that this is based on true events.
That's when the music changes and the tension ratchets up to the nth degree. The scene where terrorists are knocking on the door is heart-poundingly intense, and the trailer really conveys a sense of panic that these people are in a constant state of flight, doing everything they can to find somewhere that is safe. And even worse, clear they'll be unable to do so.
Seeing the stories of people thrust into this situation and the sacrifices they will have to make to survive adds a thick layer of emotion to the tense horrors present in this trailer. Hotel Mumbai boasts a fantastic cast and it looks like it will see Armie Hammer and Dev Patel's characters teaming up to survive the real-life tragedy.
There is something about films like this, based on horrific true events, that achieve a kind of terror that fictional films cannot match-- be it United 93 or the recent Netflix movie 22 July (both from Paul Greengrass.) Given the ending of the horrifying real-life events, moviegoers know that things are going to go bad, and no last minute save (the kind so prevalent in fiction) is going to change that. This make the telling of these stories simultaneously difficult to watch and necessary to remember the past.
Personally, there's a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach that interrupts my breathing with these types of viewings, because I know that what I'm seeing is not born out of someone's imagination, but is based on harrowing experiences that actually happened to real people. Based on this trailer, Hotel Mumbai imparts that same sense of dread.
Sadly, there are enough events like this in recent history that there is practically a whole sub-genre of films dedicated to telling these stories. We may wish that these things only existed in the realm of fiction, but that is reality of the world. Arguably, putting tragedies to film helps remind people of something that they may have forgotten due to the commonplace of these events, and the endless churn of the 24-hour news cycle.