Hotel Mumbai

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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Tragedy makes good storytelling. Shakespeare figured that out. Witness “Macbeth” and “King Lear.”

Remember the news story about terrorists invading a hotel in Mumbai (that’s in India) and killing a bunch of guests? Well, get in line and buy a ticket. That tragedy has been made into a movie titled “Hotel Mumbai.”

Starring our favorite go-to British-born Indian actor Dev Patel, we get a dramatic thriller based on that horrific raid on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai.

On November 26, 2008, a group of terrorists armed with explosives and AK-47s stormed this five-star tourist hotel, taking it over floor-by-floor, shooting guests as they encountered them. The police were caught off-guard by this unprecedented national crisis.

Director Anthony Maras shifts his point of view back and forth between the hotel staff who risk their lives trying to keep guests safe and the invaders as they coordinate deadly attacks throughout the city by using ear phones. To assure a sense of you-are-there authenticity, Maras interjects the film with actual news footage of the deadly events.

Mainly, the film focuses on the humanity among the carnage. A waiter named Arjun (Dev Patel), and the courageous head chef, Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher), are seen as hotel employees who stand up against the invaders; David (Armie Hammer) and Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) are a tourist couple whose child is stuck upstairs with their nanny (Tilda Cobham-Hervey).

The characters are fictional (the heroic dad, the loyal waiter, the frightened babysitter, the decadent Russian, the regretful terrorist), but the story is real. This bloodbath played out some ten years ago on the six o’clock news.

Although the film takes place during one never-ending night, the actual siege lasted for three days. Thirty-one people lost their life. The film doesn’t spare the audience from witnessing the slaughter.

“Hotel Mumbai” is currently showing at Tropic Cinema.

Newbie director Anthony Maras (he’d only done a handful of shorts before this) scores a bulls-eye with his ambitious first feature, “covering every corner of the hotel and making each gunshot or explosion feel like the real thing.”

“The starting point was trying to honor the people who lived through this experience, and also the people who didn’t,” says Australian-born Maras.

Dev Patel sees “Hotel Mumbai” as a story about the heroism of people. “It’s about everyone in that hotel: guest, staff, alike,” he says.

The Taj Mahal Palace contains 560 rooms and 44 suites. There are some 1,600 staff including 35 butlers. The hotel is now celebrating 115 years of serving guests.

Dev Patel notes that the resort hotel is a great source of pride for the people of Mumbai. “Once this horrific event happened, within three weeks they got it fully functioning and running again to make a point, that you can’t bring us down.”

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