26 November 2008 was a shocking day in Mumbai with a wave of terror attacks sweeping across India’s largest city. Caught up in the crisis, over 200 staff and guests at the famous Taj Hotel.
Their incredible story is told in chilling detail by Australian Director Anthony Maras in his first feature film Hotel Mumbai.
Dev Patel stars as Arjun, a hotel employee who is nearly sent home that day because he has lost his shoes, and his boss has high standards for the staff to serve the VIP clients – “Remember – Guest is God”.
When his boss refused to let him wear socks and sandals, Arjun manages to borrow a pair of shoes too small for his feet, but he needs the shift with a second baby due any day now, so he ignores the pain and sets about serving the establishments high class patrons.
Meanwhile Armie Hammer as David checks into a suite with his wealthy upper class Indian wife Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) and their infant child.
The pair leave their baby with their nanny Sally (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) and go for dinner downstairs where David ignorantly orders a cheeseburger unaware of the fact that Hindus don’t eat beef.
While they dine in the posh hotel restaurant, terrorist have begun their coordinated attacks on the city unleashing carnage at various locations including the city’s major train station, before heading to the Taj Hotel.
The film takes on another dimension once the hotel comes under fire, as for the next three days, a small group of hijackers manage to hold the hotel hostage, before special forces arrive to take charge of the situation.
Watching this horror unfold, with no help in sight for the stranded hotel guests and staff is truly terrifying. Hotel Mumbai is as tense a movie as I’ve ever seen and Maras succeeds in getting us to feel something for the misguided Jihadis, who are in constant contact with their handler in Pakistan and talk amongst themselves about whether their families have been paid the money promised to them.
When one of them rings home to speak to his family and learns no money has been transferred, they grasp that they may have been played, but it’s too late now to do anything other than commit to continue their attack and die as martyrs.
Arjun is one of the staff members who help keep a number of the guests safe, shepherding them to shelter inside the hotel’s exclusive lounge, barricading themselves in to hide while they wait for help that arrives too late.
Harrowing, Heart-stopping. Intense, 4 Stars.