Hotel Mumbai

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Hotel Mumbai

Runtime 123 minutes R

This is the true story of the siege of the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, India by Muslim terrorists. Directed by Anthony Maras, his first feature-length film, from a script by him and John Collee, from the opening titles, the beat of the music (Volker Bertelman) starts the tension and it never lets up until the film ends.

A group of terrorist attacks that took place in November 2008, when 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic terrorist organization based in Pakistan, carried out a series of 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai. This film concentrates on those who invaded the Taj Hotel and all the innocent victims, which included hotel staff and guests.

… this is clearly the best
movie of the year so far…

Included in the guests are a couple, David (Armie Hammer) and Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) who have an infant child being cared for by Sally (Tilda Cobhan-Hervey). If Sally really existed, she protects their baby as if it were her own.

Even more heroic is the hotel staff, personified by Chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) and a waiter (Academy Award nominee Dev Patel), both of whom stay behind with a vast number of the staff to try to protect and save the guests of the hotel.

Although Oberoi is a real life person and what he did actually happened, the other characters, Patel’s waiter, David, Zahra, and Vasili (Jason Isaacs), a gruff, plain-speaking Russian, were all composites of real people and their real experiences during the three-day siege.

There is not a second that passes that isn’t fraught with tension. The brutal Muslim fanatics attack with cold-blooded brutality. The automatic weapons they use to spray bullets at the guests might have been on half or quarter loads, but the noise of their shooting is frightening even if you are just sitting in a theater watching it.

The filmmakers strove for authenticity. Although they could not shoot at the Taj Hotel itself because it’s still a full-functioning hostelry, the opening scenes showing the arrival of the terrorists were shot on the beach where they landed. The train station they attacked is the actual train station. Of course the exterior shots of the hotel are the actual hotel, and there is newsreel footage of the actual event.

Everything about it, the acting, writing, and production values, is award-quality. While this may be damning with faint praise, this is clearly the best movie of the year so far and will hold its place, in my opinion anyway, as one of the best of the year when December rolls around.

Tony Medley is an MPAA-accredited film critic. See more reviews at TonyMedley.com.

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