You will be left squirming in your seat as you watch the agony felt by the guests at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, India in 2008.
If you have ever been remotely curious as to what it would be like to be a victim of an assassin’s attack that recently occurred in New Zealand and Pittsburgh, then Hotel Mumbai is your cinematic cup of tea. It is startlingly well done as it recreates the assault on the Taj Hotel in November, 2008, by Pakistani terrorists. The attackers had but one goal and that was to kill as many guests and employees as possible before giving up their own lives in the name of Allah.
The strength of this film flows from the fact that it concentrates on the interaction of the guests and hotel employees as well as the terrorists themselves. To begin with, the Taj is a 5-star hotel that caters to the wealthy and influential. The terrorists arrive on a small boat where they first kill unsuspecting people at a train station and various other locations before descending on the Taj.
As you watch guests being gunned down in their hotel rooms, you cannot hide the feeling that this nightmare is occurring in your movie theatre. Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi play a young American/India couple who are checking into the Taj with their travelling nanny Sally (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) and their infant child. They get separated and you don’t know if any of the three will live or die, and Mr. Hammer again displays his incredible talent as he did playing Cameron Winklevoss in The Social Network (2010), a bisexual travelling writer in Call Me by Your Name (2017) and in both Sorry to Bother You where he caught your attention as a psychopathic genetic expert and On the Basis of Sex where you watch him play the husband of Justice Ginsburg.
While Anupam Kher makes a great contribution as Oberoi, the hotel’s world recognized chef who tries to keep his guests alive, Dev Patel stands out as Arjun, a Sikh hotel employee supporting a pregnant wife and a child. He finds himself forced to put his own life on the line to help the many terrified guests dancing on the edge of a violent death. In my humble opinion, there is no better actor working today than Mr. Patel, and I for one cherish his roles in Slumdog Millionaire (2008), both of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films (2012 and 2015) and the emotionally rewarding Lion (2016) where he received an Academy nomination.
Let me again emphasize that this is not an easy movie to watch given that it is based on a horrific event that occurred barely ten years ago. For those of you who like to travel overseas, and I am one of them, imagine waking up in your hotel room where gunmen are attempting to execute all guests before setting fire to the hotel. No matter what your reaction to this movie may be, there is no question that you will be riveted to the screen from beginning to end.
Finally, and as noted above, a significant portion of the film is dedicated to the interaction of the young terrorists. In that regard, Suhail Nayyar, Manoj Mehra, Amandeep Singh, Dinesh Kumar and Amriptal Singh do a splendid job playing assassins that you will hate while gradually developing an understanding of their twisted allegiance to their faith. You hear them on constant phone calls to their unknown mentor, and it is clear that they have been convinced that they need to seek revenge primarily on Westerners who have exploited Muslims for their own financial reward.
As the terrorists clearly knew they were going to die and then end up in Paradise, I couldn’t help but think of similar feelings being felt by European armies that invaded the Middle East during the Crusades to kill Muslims. Whether you are a Christian or a Muslim, the comparison scars both religions and should not be forgotten.