In November of 2008, 10 men from an Islamic terrorist group carried out a series of attacks in Mumbai, using guns, grenades and bombs. There were several targets for the attacks including a train station, hospital, cafe and 2 hotels, one of these being the Taj Mahal Hotel where the film is set.
Hotel Mumbai briefly covers the lead up and then the following events that took place inside the Taj Mahal Hotel on that November night. The film is about two attacks, but also about the loyal and selfless staff of the hotel who put their lives on the line to serve their guests.
Dev Patel stars as Arjun, a hotel and restaurant worker at The Taj trying to make ends meet for his expecting wife and young daughter, who finds himself caught right in the middle of the action trying to save many guests. Two of these guests are David (Armie Hammer) and Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi), a wealthy American couple who are staying at the hotel, along with their infant son and nanny. They soon find themselves being hunted by the terrorists, as they want to take them as hostages.
Now, this film is very graphic and confronting. It really does nothing to tone down the violence that occurs in such an attack. We see many people being mowed down with machine gun fire, as well as execution style killings in centre frame. It really drives home the horror and terror created by terrorism. Some may find this extremely off putting, but I found it to suit the themes of the film and help convey the risk that the hotel staff were taking by trying to save their guests.
I found the story told through the film to be quite good. It showed the fear of the staff and guests, but also the courage and strength of wanting to survive and return to their families. The staff that stepped up and took the risks weren’t painted as big heroes. To them they were just doing their jobs and the film did well to not put them on a pedestal. The film also includes several subplots that help to build emotion for the victims of the attack.
The terrorists were also well written and acted. I quite liked the fact that they all spoke in their local language and were given subtitles, which in my opinion made the film feel more authentic. The actors were great, showing little to no emotion while murdering hundreds of people and at times even stopping to have a joke, all while having orders barked down the phone through an earpiece from an anonymous ringleader.
Overall, Hotel Mumbai is a good film. It really captured the feel of being in an Indian city, even though a lot of it was filmed in Australia. Hotel Mumbai felt authentic, raw and left me feeling shaken, thinking about it long after I had finished watching it over the next couple of days. Although I did enjoy the film and understand the reasons and choices behind its execution, I can see the heavy violence holding it back from box office success.