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Hotel Mumbai

Since almost the dawn of mankind, terrorism has been an awful constant. Fear and destruction lay in its wake with the lives of those involved forever affected. This century has seen such atrocities increase tenfold with almost daily news reports detailing the carnage. Based on the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ effectively explores how those involved react in these deadly situations and the swathe of anarchy unleashed.

Hemant (Anupam Kher), is a popular chef at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in the Indian city of Mumbai. One of his co-workers is waiter Arjun (Dev Patel). Their busy schedule sees them looking after guests such as David (Armie Hammer), his wife Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi), and child. Swiftly their lives are torn apart when terrorists lay siege on the hotel. Events spiral out of control as guests and staff alike must band together to do whatever it takes to protect the threat to their lives.

Directed by Anthony Maras, ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is consistently engaging. His direction teases out the emotions and tension perfectly. In any terrorist situation nothing is predictable with death occurring potentially any moment. The fear of such fate drives the people in this story as they struggle against a hurricane of violence and destruction. The script skillfully sets up the scenario on all sides with the intricacies of hotel life dovetailing into the mechanics of terrorist activities.

None of these elements would work without strong performances. ‘Hotel Mumbai’ is filled with them with Patel and others never over-playing their roles. They know they aren’t performing in a turgid daytime soap opera and bring authenticity as the story explores what happens when evil strikes. The Indian filming unearthing the beauty and terror of the locale is used to good effect with the score remembering not to over-arch itself in terms of fake emotional cues.

‘Hotel Mumbai’ is an often disturbing, inspiring and striking reminder of terrorism’s vast reach. The commendable bravery of those who fought back against this is very well realized. It shows how terrorism can never ultimately win if we don’t give up and stand together to ensure such acts are as infrequent as possible.

Rating out of 10: 8

Captain Marvel

Since 2008, the Marvel series of films have been spectacular hits. Raking in dollars as well as garnering a new legion of superhero fans, the movies have become a cornerstone in modern commercial film-making. They have their detractors, like any series, but success isn’t a bad thing in Hollywood which is why they keep on being made. ‘Captain Marvel’ is more of the same with the only enemy facing the production being the limitations of the writer’s mind.

Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), a former U.S. fighter pilot, unwittingly gains great superpowers. Joining the peaceful alien Kree group Starforce and calling herself Captain Marvel, she becomes a valued member. Aided by Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), an agent for SHIELD, Danvers faces a potentially deadly enemy in Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). A shape-shifting member of the Skrull empire, Talos’ supposed wicked ways seemingly meets its match in Danver’s cosmic powers.

‘Captain Marvel’ lies in the middle of the Marvel movie pantheon. Certainly not one of the worst produced but nor one of the best, it does the job in providing visually appealing escapism. The eye-popping colours and grandiose spectacle are in place with the direction moving the somewhat predictable story at a fast pace. ‘Captain Marvel’ is a generally light-hearted romp with the caustic interplay between Danvers and Fury adding to the enjoyment.

One of the issues ‘Captain Marvel’ has is its casting. Larson fails to project the charisma needed for such a hero, only looking at the camera in serious monotone. Her acting range isn’t the best but her co-stars are much better. Jackson slips into his regular role as Fury with ease with Mendelsohn enjoying playing a different role than usual. The CGI and photography are first rate as expected with the musical score suitably bombastic and loud.

‘Captain Marvel’ may feel like more of the same and in most cast that’s true. It’s clichéd in places with a lead failing to register in the gallery of heroes. For a breezy popcorn yarn this should do the trick until the next ‘Avengers’ film comes along with this captain not being as marvellous as hoped.

Rating out of 10: 6