Hotel Mumbai Image

Hotel Mumbai

By Andy Howell | September 9, 2018

I’m astounded that this is director Anthony Maras’ first feature-length film.  He’s a master of building tension through a combination of building up characters that we care about and putting them in horrific jeopardy.  In a typical Hollywood movie, we know our heroes are going to survive. Not so here, and the result is more akin to a horror movie than any traditional drama.  

The film had special resonance for me, because I’ve stayed at the Taj Palace Hotel, and visited many of the sites that were attacked in Mumbai.  The hotel, one of the most famous in the world, has hosted too many presidents, heads of state, and famous people to name. It is renowned for its overwhelming sense of hospitality and service to its guests.  The film captures the spirit of the place, or more accurately, the spirit of the people who work there, perfectly.

One of the things I like most about the Hotel Mumbai is that it doesn’t go out of its way to artificially construct heroes in the way that an American production might have been tempted to do.  People attempt heroic actions and are just gunned down in cold blood. The police are mostly ineffective. In the face of horror like this, your indomitable spirit isn’t going to save you.

“…it doesn’t go out of its way to artificially construct heroes in the way that an American production might…

The cast is great — I can’t say enough about Armie Hammer, Dev Patel, Nazanin Boniadi, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, and Anupam Kher.  These weren’t easy roles, as they had to act fearful, horrified, stoic, and distraught, sometimes all in the same scene. Jason Isaacs does fine work too, but I have to admit that I had a hard time accepting him as a Russian.  It may be that I’m too familiar with his work and I could never quite suspend disbelief. I wish they had cast an actual Russian in the role, but on the other hand, him being in the film is one of the things that made me want to see it.  

No amount of words that can convey the sense of the film, because it is such a gut-punch of emotion.  Experiencing it was so intense that I just couldn’t get into the next movie I was scheduled to see. I had to process Hotel Mumbai.  After the screening, much of the cast felt the same, as they had just seen it for the first time. Dev Patel struggled to answer a very basic question and apologized because he was at a loss for words after that incredibly emotional experience.  

Just go see Hotel Mumbai — you won’t regret it.

Hotel Mumbai (2018) Directed by Anthony Maras. Written by Anthony Maras, John Collee. Starring Armie Hammer, Dev Patel, Nazanin Boniadi, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Anupam Kher, Jason Isaacs. Hotel Mumbai premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

9 out of 10 stars

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