Coming to theaters from writer/director Anthony Maras and Bleeker Street comes the terrifying attack on the crown jewel of India with “Hotel Mumbai.”
It is 2008 and Arjun (Dev Patel) is a husband and father who works at the Taj Hotel. His boss Chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) and hotel butler Jamon (Alex Pinder) strives to each employee that the hotel has a reputation so the staff must constantly strive for perfection. Stressing that whatever a guest needs is what a guest gets.
Arriving for their stay are couple Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) and husband David (Armie Hammer) along with their baby and nanny Sally (Tilda Cobham-Hervey). Also Vasili (Jason Isaacs), a Russian who owns a company and knows how to enjoy himself arrives with many more guests checking in.
What no one in Mumbai knows is that a group of men led on the phone by the Bull has a plan for the city. Imran (Amandeep Singh), Abdullah (Suhail Nayyar), Houssam (Manoj Mehra), Rashid (Dinesh Kumar), Ismail (Amriptal Singh) and Ajmal (Kapil Netra) are about to wreak havoc.
Beginning with a restaurant the shooting starts and no one is spared, and as the gunman run, again they shoot and this time at police. The crowd starts running and come to the doors of the Taj Hotel. Begging to be let in, what they don’t know is that the gunman are among them.
Within minutes the hotel is under siege as Oberoi tries to get as many guests as possible into a room where Arjun helps all he can. From the reception desk and going room to room, the gunman are indiscriminate and unstoppable. Eating at the hotel restaurant, David, Zahra and Vasili hit the floor and remain quiet but Zahra is frantic that the nanny Sally and her baby don’t know what’s coming.
The gunmen are guided by their constant telephone calls from the Bull who keep the frenzy going. Police can only sit by and watch helplessly as most of their force has been killed and the Special Forces are coming from Delhi.
The survivors must work together under the most unimaginable horror to survive and save as many as they can.
Patel as Arjun portrays such a humble man who wants to do a good job. It doesn’t help that on this particular day he has footwear issues. He immediately goes into his job and is pleasant, knowledgeable and very endearing. That is what Patel does, he takes a character like Arjun and gives him such relatability and heart and in a second has a role in “The Wedding Guest” and turns into something completely different. In “Hotel Mumbai” he puts himself second, third and fourth sometimes and always ahead of everyone else. The final scene with Patel just tore me up. THAT is how good Patel is on the screen.
Kher as Oberoi is the father figure of the hotel and his staff listens to him. Doing his best to keep everyone calm and, more importantly, quiet, he never forgets to treat them with dignity (even if some fly off the hinges). Pinder as Jamon has a small role but he constantly reminds everyone that the Taj Hotel is home to the staff and they will defend it.
Boniadi as Zahra is a mother who is going to do anything for her child and husband. Her plans are daring, dangerous and actually made me catch my breath a time or two. Hammer as David wants to bring the family back together which means finding a way to get back up to their room without the gunman discovering him.
Isaac as Vasili is a Russian who isn’t afraid of the gunman but knows not to tangle with them either. He takes a protective role for Zahra when she needs it most. He usually is a good guy or a bad guy but in this role he has the opportunity to be both but has his reasons.
Singh, Nayyar, Mehra, Kumar and Amriptal Singh have the most difficult of all roles in this film. As the gunman they are wrapped up tightly in this story with their weapons and their belief that the voice of Bull is guiding them correctly. When I say this isn’t an easy role I absolutely mean it. From the moment the first shots are fired, these characters are going to be absolutely disgusted by anyone viewing the film. Of course that is the point but man it takes some acting guts to put yourselves in a role that even though absolutely necessary to the story.
Other cast include Adithi Kalkunte as Simple, Vipin Sharma as Dilip, Gaurav Paswala as Sanjay, Natasha Bordizzo as Bree, Angus McLaren as Eddie, Chantal Contouri as Mrs. Karvelas, Carmen Duncas as Lady Wynn and Sachin Joab as Vijay.
FINAL WORD: To the actors may I say a heartfelt thank you. This is not an easy story to tell, nor could it have been easy to put on film, yet you all took a leap of belief that it is a story that needed to be told. To the writers John Collee and Anthony Masas, it is important that “Hotel Mumbai” not be sugar coated and you both wrote that extraordinarily well.
This is based on true events and no event could have been more terrifying than this one. We all know a little of the story that comes out from the news but until the details are put in front of you it is quite easy to forget. I do not think I will ever now forget what happened at the Taj Hotel. There have only been a handful of true event films that have hit me hard and the hardest was the 2012 film “The Impossible.”
I can honestly say that now, said film will have to share the top spot with “Hotel Mumbai.” This film brings the brutality, the humanity, the intensity and the utter heartbreak with each frame of the film. In the midst of the constant barrage of gunfire is the bravery and courage of those who would not let a moment go by without helping — even if it cost them dearly.
There wasn’t a moment where I couldn’t catch my breath, found myself whispering at the screen, put my hand over my mouth and yes, even felt my eyes well up with tears. This is an extraordinary film from the beginning until the end scene that reminds us of what is truly important — and it isn’t shoes.
In the end — in November of 2008 terror struck the heart of the India.