In 2008, terrorists conducted a series of coordinated attacks against sites in Mumbai, India that killed hundreds. The world-renowned Taj Mahal Hotel was one of the targets. Staff desperately tried to protect guests as gunmen roamed the halls. Anthony Maras’ new film Hotel Mumbai presents a fictionalized version of those events.
Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) plays a waiter at the hotel. Along with the no-nonsense chef (Anupam Kher), they work to hide guests (Armie Hammer and Jason Isaacs among them) from the terrorists. They learn that India’s special forces are hours away in Delhi and that it will be a very long time before any help arrives.
Maras does a good job of choreographing the action. Viewers always have a clear sense of where things are in the hotel, and where the characters are in relation to each other (this sounds simple, but many action movies screw this up). The film also makes viewers think about how they might act if faced with two unfathomable choices: hide and risk being fish in a barrel if caught or try to run when you have no idea who’s around that corner.
Movies like Hotel Mumbai invariably raise some discussion about using real-life tragedies for films. Here, the filmmakers chose to mostly use composite or fictional characters to tell the story. The film is unsettling to watch, but if studios make films about World War II, the Civil War, etc., then there is no reason events like those depicted in Hotel Mumbai should be off limits.