Hotel Mumbai plays out as a white knuckle thriller, made all the more breathless because it is based on an actual event. The terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008, At the story’s center is the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, the lap of luxury for its guests, with a staff that are devoted to making sure all their wishes are met, often before they even realize they have them.
Arjun (Dev Patel) is one of the hotel’s employees, working to look after his child and pregnant wife. Smart, dedicated, and devoted to his family and his job, he finds himself caught up in the horrific events, alongside Oberoi (Anupam Kher), who has made the hotel his life. They and countless other staff works to save as many guests as they can, while armed terrorists, religious fundamentalists, stalk the hallways, and lobbies, often at personal risk to themselves.
Amongst the guests are a Russian businessman Vasili (Jason Isaacs), David (Armie Hammer), his wife, Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi), their newborn, and their nanny, Sally (Tilda Cobham-Hervey). They are separated when the attack happens, and tensions ratchet higher and higher, as the newborn’s life seems to hang in the balance.
The hotel staff guide the guests to what they hope is a secure room, in a hope to withstand the siege, but as the hours pass, and no help from the outside world seems to be forthcoming, things look increasingly dire.
Going in with a minimal knowledge of the event, I was not prepared for the events that played out, and found myself caught up in a powerfully crafted film that resonates with emotion, and the best (and worst) of humanity.
Patel simply shines in this film, and he’s an actor I have come to look forward to seeing no matter what he does, he’s able to easily shoulder this film, as playing Arjun in this story he’s focused on keeping his guests safe, but all the time, he’s determined to survive and get back to his family. He confronts fear, anger, and violence, with equal parts dignity and determination and his portrayal is perfect.
The tension is amped up constantly through the film, and there are moments of sheer terror as characters see others gunned down, mercilessly, or are unable to issue warnings, and the situation keeps getting worse.
But the best of humanity comes through, we survive (and yes, there is still evil out there (I will not use this as a soapbox to rail on the evils of fundamentalist religions of any ilk)), and we can be the better for it; rising above it together, celebrating our commonalities, and reveling in our differences as opposed to enacting violence on one another in the name of ‘religion.’
This is a solid thriller, with a human heart, and an absolute riveting watch.