Cast: Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Anupam Kher
Director: Anthony Maras
The tough thing about a movie like Hotel Mumbai is there isn’t necessarily a huge audience for something like this. Regardless of the stars that you stack this film with, I feel as though the concept of promoting a movie about an Indian terrorist attack is a hard sell in the United States. For those who do make it out to see this movie, you’ll probably end up shaken to the core by what you’ve seen. This movie does not hold back with the way it depicts the horrors of this situation, and honestly the victims of this attack would probably feel respected in the way everything is shown. Vividly graphic and emotional, Hotel Mumbai can be tough to watch, but it is worth it due to the complex characters and heartbreaking depiction of reality.
The film follows a group of hotel guests and employees at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai. While the guests are trying to enjoy the vast luxuries the hotel has to offer them, a group of terrorists plan on attacking multiple spots in the city including the hotel. Now under siege, this group of previously complete strangers must work together if they plan on surviving this onslaught. The first thing that’s very apparent about this movie is that it probably won’t go the way you think it will go. This movie does an excellent job of depicting just how harsh the reality of their situation is and how much loss many of these guests suffered even if they survived. If you don’t like watching people die, especially in a movie based on true events, I recommend you stay as far away from this film as possible. It’s not easy watching people get gunned down with AK-47’s like it’s target practice, especially when we’re emotionally invested in the situation, but Hotel Mumbai’s strengths lie in its ability to connect us with so many different characters and their backgrounds. One of the most powerful examples of this is an interaction between Arjun (Patel), a hotel employee, and a scared British woman. She wants him to shave his beard and take off his turban because she thinks he may be aligned with the terrorists after them. When Arjun breaks down what those things mean to him and how it came from a place of love and family, the woman admitted her opinions were based on her fears and a lack of understanding. This scene nails much of the background behind things like racism and xenophobia, people are afraid of what could happen and jump to a conclusion that makes them feel safe. In the climate we live in today, this is the type of scene that everyone can benefit from watching and I applaud the movie for going in this direction. The only thing I was unhappy about is how this scene ended up becoming a plot device for something down the line. If this existed merely to prove the above point I would really appreciate it. Instead, it was used to set up a dramatic element in a later scene which ended up being a turn off for me. Since the previous scene is really the only mention of this importance, maybe a scene included earlier in the movie in a more casual environment it would’ve made the end result that much more impactful. In reality, we got a phenomenal scene that could’ve shaped the way people feel about bigotry that turns into a different scene where all of that is thrown away.
Overall, Hotel Mumbai may not be the box office smash it was hoping to be, but it tells an intense and depressing story in a way that very few are capable of doing. This is the type of story that I and many others probably heard about in the news and then quickly forgot about it since it didn’t happen in the U.S., but this type of story is important to tell to show what others around the world are dealing with. Combine this story with strong performances by the ensemble and running scenes that you can actually watch and Hotel Mumbai ends up as a haunting reminder of the world around us and how the world works much better when we put aside our differences and find a common ground.
Overall Score: 7.5/10