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Blu-ray Review: Hotel Mumbai

June 18, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Following a similar trajectory to other gritty, ripped from the headlines films like Paul Greengrass’s United 93 and Captain Phillips, and more recently Clint Eastwood’s underrated The 15:17 to Paris, Hotel Mumbai is the latest movie that seeks to dramatize a violent real life attack by recreating it in the guise of a suspense thriller.

The film focuses on the events that started on November 26th, 2008, when a group of extremists from the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba laid siege to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in India as part of a coordinated attack against the city of Mumbai. Armed with assault rifles and grenades, they moved through the hotel floor by floor and room by room, killing people onsite and holding others hostage.

The film is told from the point of view of several employees and guests who end up trapped in the hotel, including Arjun (Dev Patel), a waiter who works in the kitchen and needs the job to support his young family and almost gets sent home at the beginning of his shift for wearing the wrong footwear; the head chef Hermant Oberoi (Anupam Kher), who takes it upon himself to ensure the safety of countless guests; the American architect David (Armie Hammer), who is on vacation with his British-Iranian heiress wife Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) along with their nanny (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) and newborn son; as well as the Russian businessman Vasili (Jason Isaacs).

Following orders from a man in Pakistan known simply as the Bull (voice of Pawan Singh) who is in constant contact with them through earpieces, the four gunmen – Imran (Amandeep Singh), Abdullah (Suhail Nayyar), Houssam (Manoj Mehra) and Rashid (Dinesh Kuman) – methodically work their way through the building, leading to a dangerous game of cat and mouse as those trapped inside move from room to room trying to survive. With no tactical units employed in the city of Mumbai, and the closest special forces officers being hundreds of miles away in Delhi, the staff have to rely on the help of the ill-prepared regular police and each other in order to stay safe and save as many lives as possible.

Aside from Chef Oberoi, a real life hero whose steady calmness in the midst of chaos made him a central figure in these events, the film’s other characters are fictional, with elements of their stories having been inspired by different survivors and victims of the attack. Director Anthony Maras does a solid job of developing these multiple different characters, setting up each of their stories in the first act before the violence erupts. The film is carried by the solid work of its cast, including a powerful performance from Dev Patel that ranks among his best work, and a standout supporting role from veteran character actor Anupam Kher, who delivers a memorable portrayal of the stoic Chef Oberoi.

The film is harrowing and doesn’t shy away from its brutal depictions of violence, made all the more disturbing due to the fact that it is based on real events. Because of this, a film like Hotel Mumbai, which mainly exists to recreate a real life tragedy, always runs the risk feeling exploitative. But it largely works, not just as a tense thriller, but also as a respectful tribute to the employees who went above and beyond to do their jobs and stay true to the hotel’s motto of protecting their guests at all costs.

The result is a tense and well made over two hour film, that keeps us gripped with its authentic and at times shockingly realistic portrayal of this terrorist attack, while also serving to honour the memories of the countless lives that were lost and celebrate the bravery of those who fought selflessly and sacrificed so much to save as many people as possible in the midst of such senseless carnage.

The Blu-ray also includes a short “behind the scenes” featurette.

Hotel Mumbai is a VVS Films release. It’s 125 minutes and rated 18A.

Street Date: June 18th, 2019

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