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A true story of humanity and heroism, Hotel Mumbai vividly recounts the 2008 siege of the famed Taj Hotel by a group of terrorists in Mumbai, India. Among the dedicated hotel staff is the renowned chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) and a waiter (Academy Award nominee Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire) who choose to risk their lives to protect their guests. As the world watches on, a desperate couple (Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name and Nazanin Boniadi, “Homeland”) is forced to make unthinkable sacrifices to protect their newborn child. Critics are hailing this film is “intense, hair-raising, and deeply humane… a suspenseful achievement” (New York Observer).
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Couple of comments: this is the feature-length debut of Australian director Anthony Maras. Here he brings what happened in the infamous Mumbai terrorist attacks (in plural) in 2008. While I generally knew about this (mostly as it relates to what happened at the Taj Hotel), I didn’t know much about the rest of it. Frankly, it is shocking to see it playing out as it did. First and foremost, I can’t even put into words how shocking and sickening it is to see these cold-blooded murderers kill so many innocent people in such a savage way. It makes this movie hard to stomach, and at one point I almost left the theater. But ultimately I decided to stick it out, and I’m glad I did. The real heroes are a handful of brave men who decide to stand up against the terrorists and try and protect the hotel guests as best they can. The ineptitude of the Mumbai police and Indian special forces is as perplexing as it is infuriating. Beware: in addition to the multiple execution-style killings, the movie contains quite a bit of hand-held camera footage. Maras does a great job of conveying the sense of panic which rose in the streets of Mumbai. Dev Patel plays Arjun, the Taj Hotel staff member, with the grace and dignity that we are used of him. The only other “big name’ in this production is Armie Hammer, playing one of the hotel guests. Also noteworthy is the excellent original score, courtesy of Volker Bertelmann (a/k/a Hauschka). Last but not least: not a single mention is made in the movie that this terrorist group came from Pakistan, and that these terrorist attacks brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. This historical revisionism is simply inexcusable.
“Hotel Mumbai” premiered at last Fall’s Toronto International Film Festival, and is now getting a limited theater release. The movie opened this past weekend on a handful of screens for all of Greater Cincinnati. The Wednesday early screening where I saw this at was attended by exactly 2 people (myself included). Even though this is a good movie (in the technical and quality sense), I honestly cannot see this playing very long in the theater. For that the movie is too hard to stomach and even harder to forget. Maybe this will gain a larger audience when the movie is released on other platforms. Of course I encourage you to check it out, be it in the theater (while you still can), on Amazon Instant Video, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.
Hotel Mumbai joins that list. It is simply the best movie I've seen in 2019...and I go to a hell of a lot of movies. The film features a marvelous ensamble cast including Dev Petal, Nazanin Boniadi, Anupam Kher, Jason Isaacs, Suhail Nayyar, Armie Hammer...and many more. This is the first time I've seen Hammer do anything remotely impressive. The story revolves around a group of hotel employees and guests caught in the deadly 2008 Mumbai terrorist massacre. The most prominent character is Arjun, a Seik waiter at the hotel. Arjun is a hard working young man with a small child and a pregnant wife. He drops his shoes on his way to work and nearly misses his shift. The chef takes pity on him and loans him his extra shoes, which don't fit. As the terrorist attacks progress, Arjun and other key employees take it upon themselves to gather and shelter a group of hotel guests, saving the guests lives by putting their own on the line. I found this truly inspiring.
One of the most profound aspects of this movie is the way the Pakistani handlers continuously talk the young and ignorant gunmen through their atrocities. We learn a lot about the brainwashing process used to take these young men and turn them into monsters. This part was as disturbing as the hotel staff's bravery was inspiring.
While I can't see myself sitting through this again and again they way I can The Godfather or Rio Bravo, this is a truly remarkable movie that I would recommend to anyone.
I remember watching this unfold from a distance on news broadcasts so it's especially compelling to see the human drama unfold even if I'm sure there are many liberties taken with the details for the purpose of drama and flow m, but the story unfolds largely in a historically accurate way.
As far as a film going experience, if one were to create a graph of your experience it would look like the rocky mountains with highs of human love and relationships to the lows of hate mongering and murder.
Ultimately the thesis of the film is the contrast between the extremes of the human experience.
Watch it, it can be hard to get through some parts as it can be quite disturbing and enraging but when the credits roll you’ll be glad you watched.
Top international reviews
A very well made action movie.