Films that are adaptations and based on true events are often heavy. Hotel Mumbai takes the realism and the disturbing factors of the Taj Hotel attack in 2008 very seriously. This is Anthony Maras’ first full-length movie, and viewers can tell that he put effort into making Hotel Mumbai frightening, but enthralling. Fans may want to see this film because of its line-up of actors ranging from Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Anupam Kher, and Jason Isaacs. However, Hotel Mumbai is not a blockbuster thriller, it is extremely brutal and unsettling. In the first few minutes of the movie, viewers will realize that the film is going to be an experience of controversial elements that is very accurate to what happened in 2008.
Hotel Mumbai opens with the attackers getting to their locations for their attacks throughout Mumbai and then transitions to the workers and the guests of the Taj Hotel. One of the employees is Arjun (Patel), and his manager is Oberoi (Kher). The day for both Arjun and Oberoi starts as just a normal day at the hotel. This means there are regular guests and VIP guests checking in. The three main guests are husband and wife, David and Zahra (Hammer and Boniadi), and Vasili (Isaacs). All of them have paid for the VIP treatment at the Taj Hotel and are trying to live their lives to the fullest. That all changes, when Mumbai begins to experience some minor attacks which then become more serious. In the Taj, the employees assume that they are safe and secure, but they are not. Within a few hours, the attackers have the Taj Hotel as their main target and based on their religious beliefs, they believe that the Taj is the hotel to be attacked to feel they are faithful to their beliefs. As soon as the hotel turns into a danger zone, the film becomes hard to watch. The guests desperately want to escape and get to safety, but it is impossible because the attackers are in every corner of the hotel with all kinds of guns and ammunition. The intensity makes viewers wonder who is likely to survive. This leads Arjun, Oberoi, David, Zahra, and Vasili to take matters into their own hands to get to safety.
When I was watching Hotel Mumbai, I felt the most difficult scenes to watch were when the attackers freely roam the hotel after already killing many innocent people. That is because each time someone is shot or injured, the film is just gruesome. I felt like the realism was very similar to Paul Greengrass’ United 93 (2006). Maras has a directing eye quite like Greengrass’ because he is faithful to having Hotel Mumbai be as factual as possible.
The heavy tone for the movie is survival. When the main characters mention they have children or are on their way to having children, viewers will become eager to know if they will make it out alive. David and Arjun fight for their lives the hardest. That is because David is a father and his baby is in the hotel room with their nanny as the attacks are taking place in the hotel. Arjun’s wife is on her way to having their second child. David takes measures to get to his room as the attackers are all over the hotel. There is a moment where he is in the elevator and hides behind a food cart, and the attackers are just inches away from him. As soon as they realize he is hiding they begin to shoot at him, but he gets the elevator door to close and tries to quickly find another safe route to his room which proves to impossible. Whenever there are moments like this in the film when one of the characters want to get to safety from where they are hiding, the more intense Hotel Mumbai gets.
The violence is not the only emotional element in the movie. The dialogue regarding the religious beliefs held by the attackers also has an emotional impact. The director uses these scenes to heighten the intensity of the peril. However, a few of the attackers do come to the realization that what they are doing is wrong, but at the same time they believe that based on their religion they need to finish what they started. What they do not realize is that they have forces bigger than them that can bring them down. Once that happens, they are out numbered and cannot compete with the special forces coming towards them.
Hotel Mumbai is worth the time, but only if viewers are ready to walk out with mixed emotions. The positive moments are rare in this movie. There is something devastating that happens in almost every scene throughout the film. And, as we know from history, the story does not end happily for a many of the characters. Some survive, some die, and some end up severely impacted by the injuries they sustain. I was captivated by the film’s realism. However, I will probably not be watching this movie again anytime soon. Still, I give this movie three stars.