Hotel Mumbai

Based on the 2009 Australian television documentary Surviving Mumbai, Hotel Mumbai is a well-acted and terrifyingly realistic depiction of the horrific terrorist attacks across the Indian city of Mumbai in November 2008. The film begins by simply showing the workers and hotel guests of the luxurious Taj Mahal Palace Hotel getting ready for a normal day, in particular a waiter named Arjun, played by Oscar nominee Dev Patel, who has a young wife and baby daughter. Nothing is out of the ordinary and the head chef Hemant Oberoi, played by famed Indian actor Anupam Kher, is preparing his large staff for the daily meals. In addition to getting familiarized with the staff who will later become heroes, the audience is also introduced to the guests, including a young Muslim Iranian-British heiress Zahra, played by Nazanin Boniadi, and her American husband David, played by Golden Globe nominee Armie Hammer, along with their infant Cameron and nanny Sally. We also meet a mysterious Russian named Vasili who used to work for the Soviet government and is played by Jason Isaacs. The rest of the movie is a harrowing dramatization of the devastating terrorist attack and shows a group of young men on a killing spree and are given orders throughout the siege from a Pakistani terrorist leader known as the Bull. Although they attacked at least 12 sites across the major Indian city from November 26 to November 29, the movie primarily focuses on what happened at the historic and iconic luxury hotel. In order to recreate the tragedy, the film does rely on using the exact words used by the terrorists and gruesomely shows the violent and indiscriminate murder of civilians throughout the hotel. The movie perhaps treads on a very thin line of exploitation, but I feel that it does not because it shows the heroic actions of the hotel staff and the guests who are trying to help others survive. For instance, Dev Patel’s character and the head chef escort guests through dangerous corridors in order to get them to safety even after they had the chance to safely escape the hotel. The story also follows the young family who are simply trying to survive and the husband and father David taking great risks to make sure that his son and the nanny who are in a different part of the hotel are safe. All the while, the obviously brainwashed terrorists continue to gun down everybody they encounter and begin to set the hotel on fire. One of the more tragic aspects of the film is the portrayal of the local police attempting to stop the terrorists but unable to do anything due to a lack of training and having to wait for the special forces hours away in Delhi. Overall, I found it to be a very hard to watch a movie at times but is a well-crafted depiction of such a brutal act of terrorism that left 174 people dead across Mumbai and the degree to which normal people become heroic at times of great challenge.

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