Anthony Maras has a tense and riveting debut film about the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India. At least 174 people died at six locations with over 300 wounded.
The attack spanned four days before peace was restored.
This compelling film, “Hotel Mumbai,” is anxious from the first frame and each performance is believable and utterly authentic.
Arjun (Dev Patel, the film’s executive producer) arrives late for work at the famous Taj Hotel. Once inside the kitchen, he realizes that he has lost his shoe. He begs chef Oberoi (Anupam Kher) to give him the shift as his wife is expecting.
Unbeknownst to the hotel, a group of terrorists have arrived by boat, hired a taxi and are gunning people down at a train station and cafe. They are headed to the Taj.
Among the celebs checking in are an Iranian heiress Zarah (Nazanin Boniadi) and her American architect husband David (Armie Hammer), along with their nanny Sally (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) and an infant.
Abruptly there are screams. A huge crowd forms outside the hotel. People are being shot in the street. At least 100 are demanding to take shelter. The shocked concierge agrees and many exhale relief. But the camera pulls back to reveal four young men with backpacks nonchalantly drifting into the lobby as if merely sightseeing. One of them ducks behind a column, loading a machine gun and carnage ensues.
This is a first rate thriller that will put you on edge and you will empathize with every guest.
David is forced to think on his feet in the midst of the attack and more than a few scenes are acutely nerve jangling.
Sally sees the executions right in front of her as she is taking care of the baby. She takes refuge in a closet.
Dev Patel is excellent as the empathetic waiter who goes beyond the call, as is Kher as the famed chef who saved many lives.
Special mention should go to actor Jason Isaacs who plays the hedonist Vasilly. Decadent and without fear in facing the terrorist kids, Isaacs very nearly steals the show.
The film also does an exemplary job in showing the terrorists as they are without excess villainy or melodrama. In one scene a badly wounded gunman, yelling in pain asks his father if the leader has sent the family money, in payment for his bloody sacrifice. The father replies with some hope “No, not yet. But he will.”
In this film, religion is a hollow practice and prayers go unanswered.
Dark and foreboding, this is a story where darkness gains the upper hand. Tense and apprehensive without fanfare or excess, “Hotel Mumbai” is a near perfect study of Mumbai’s most violent attack that deserves to be alongside Paul Greengrass’s unsparing “United 93.”
Write Ian at firstname.lastname@example.org