Hotel Mumbai, rated R
Hotel Mumbai is an intense film about the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India that lasted four days. The film is well made and acted, but has a significant amount of violence and adult language (much of it appearing in subtitles). The film is directed by Anthony Maras, and written by Maras and John Collee (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Happy Feet). The film is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with survivors and witnesses of the attacks.
We see ten Lashkar-e-Taiba (a Pakistan based terrorist group) Muslim jihadists approach Mumbai in small boats. Armed with assault rifles, grenades and improvised explosive devices, the young men split up in taxis and begin to carry out their twelve planned shooting and bombing attacks across the city, that will eventually last three days. They get their direction via earpieces from their handlers in Pakistan and are told that Allah awaits them in paradise. The Mumbai police force is completely unprepared to deal with an attack of such magnitude, and backup forces are 800 miles and hours away in Delhi.The four surviving attackers meet at the majestic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel where there are a thousand guests and five hundred staff inside. It is at the hotel, where “guests are god”, that we meet Hemant the hotel’s head chef and a culinary legend in India, played by Anupam Kher (New Amsterdam, Silver Linings Playbook) and Arjun, a member of his staff, played by Oscar nominee Dev Patel (Lion, Slumdog Millionaire). (Note: the character is actually the amalgam of two actual people – a waiter from one of the hotel’s restaurants and an unarmed security guard). Arjun lost his shoes on the way into work and initially is sent home by Hemant, who then allows him to borrow a pair of his own, though much too small for Arjun, especially on this day.
The guests (fictionalized, but displaying traits and actions of real people), include an arrogant Russian businessman Vasili, played by Golden Globe nominee Jason Isaacs (The State Within, Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter films), and a wealthy couple, David, an American architect played by Golden Globe nominee Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name), and his wife Zahra, a British-Iranian Muslim woman played by Nazanin Boniadi (Homeland), their newborn baby and Sally, their nanny, played by Tilda Cobham-Hervey.
As the terrorists enter the hotel on November 26, we see the staff put their lives on the line in an attempt to save as many guests as possible. During the crisis, they remain remarkably calm, and continue to treat their guests, plus those from outside who have escaped the attacks and taken refuge in the hotel, with politeness and courtesy, as they try to keep them safe in the midst of the attack.
The film, which includes some actual television footage, and is told through the perspective of guests and staff as the attacks are unfolding. The filmmakers were given access to original transcripts of intercepted cell phone calls between the terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan. The musical score by Oscar nominee Volker Bertelmann (Lion) adds to the tension of the film.
Content concerns include adult language and a significant amount of violence, as twelve separate attacks took place in the city, resulting in more than 170 deaths. Themes include bravery, selflessness, religion, jihad, danger, and self-sacrifice.
Hotel Mumbai is an intense, well made and acted film, showing the courage and self-sacrifice of the staff of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel trying to save as many guests as possible during the brutal 2008 terrorist attack.