Movie Review: Hotel Mumbai

Hotel Mumbai Movie

It’s Movie Night!
If you have been following this blog for a while, you already know I love India and utterly enjoyed my time in Delhi, and so, after watching the trailer, I had to see this movie. Here’s the synopsis:

“Terror strikes in the heart of Mumbai, India, as members of Lashkar-e-Taiba storm the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in a series of coordinated attacks throughout the city. Amid the gunfire and mayhem, a brave chef and kitchen worker decide to risk their own lives to try and protect the frightened guests. As the militants continue their assault on the hotel, a desperate couple must do whatever they can to protect their newborn baby.”

If you haven’t seen the trailer, get to it so we can talk.

What I Liked
First, I was impressed by the authenticity of the cast selection. I’m a fan of Dev Patel’s acting and have been since 2016 following his outstanding performance in Lion. Here, he plays Arjun, a young hotel employee who is so relatable, you quickly fall in love with him. I’m also a huge fan of Anupam Kher who plays a doctor in the medical series New Amsterdam on Amazon Prime. Being Indians, casting them in these roles was perfect. Because of the nature of this movie, a lot depended on the actors being able to communicate strong emotions like confusion, fear, hysteria and grief of the characters through their facial expressions and it was all so palpable.

I have to add that Nazanin Boniadi is so beautiful. That scene where she’s performing Salah (ṣalawāt) whispering and repeating the words “La ilaha illallahul Halimul Karim, subhanallahi Rabbil ‘arshil ‘azim…” over and over in anguish and grief and staring up at the terrorist who has a gun pressed to her forehead is sooo intense, this whole scene gave me real chills.

Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) performing Salat as the terrorist holds his gun to her head in Hotel Mumbai
Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) performing Salat as the terrorist holds his gun to her head in Hotel Mumbai
Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) performing Salat as the terrorist holds his gun to her head in Hotel Mumbai
Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) performing Salat and praying as the terrorist holds his gun to her head in Hotel Mumbai
Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) performing Salat as the terrorist holds his gun to her head in Hotel Mumbai
Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi) performing Salat as the terrorist holds his gun to her head in Hotel Mumbai

Much like Netflix “July 22” which re-enacts the terrorist attacks in Oslo, this contemporary history film takes you through the hotel’s grand entrance, plush hallways, rooms, and service stairs that eventually become littered with bodies of innocent guests. Boy, this drama thriller was intense, almost difficult to watch. At some point, it felt to me like I was in the hotel and found myself warning people to stay down or keep quiet, I damn near yelled at the ladies in the movie to take off their clicking-heels before they got us killed. This story is so well told it puts you right there with the survivors and victims, at least mentally and emotionally, getting lost in the maze of rooms and praying you don’t come up on a gunman. It was terrifying and sad to imagine that something so terrible took place in such a beautiful place.

Next, I was intrigued by how the story did not excuse the senseless murder but helped us understand the perspective and how terror networks work. I will admit that, it had me thinking that religion is the cause of too many problems in this world. in my opinion, it has been used as a tool, twisted and used by the powerful to brainwash the gullible. Listening to the voice giving orders from the other end of a phone line filled me with so many questions, one of which was: If the god you believe in is so great, why can’t he kill unbelievers and win the jihad himself?

What Could be Better
Even though the attack on the hotel was real, the details of the true story might have been exaggerated. For the most part, the characters in this movie are fictional to protect their identity, except Oberoi, the Head Chef.

Arjun (Dev Patel), one of the movie’s most significant characters isn’t real. He is based on a waiter who turned off the lights and had guests hide under the table, and a security guard who led the police officers to the hotel’s CCTV room. The couple Zahra and David are also not real. They were based on two different couples. Regardless, Oberoi and staff did save more that 150 guests.

This hollywood movie conveniently leaves out the fact that a Pakistani-American was part of the plan and gathered information for the attacks. in addition, the mastermind of the attacks and “man on the phone” was jailed and released on bail. He is alive and spending his incarceration time in luxury.

In conclusion, it’s a great movie touching on work and duty, love as a sense of responsibility, religion as a weapon and a saviour, and personal sacrifice. This movie left me feeling exhausted from the hours hiding and dodging bullets and even the “happy-ending” was not enough to raise my spirits. The characters may have been fake but nothing changes the fact that 170 people lost their lives on that day. You can find the official report here.

Who can watch this? Well, it’s certainly not for kids or the faint-hearted. It is rated R for a reason. There is a lot of violence throughout the movie, corpses, the bleeding and injured and some cursing and foul language. I think it is important to say that if you are a Muslim, this might be a little awkward if not outright difficult to watch seeing how Muslims are both villains and victims. Regardless, this unfortunate event actually happened and this story like others, deserves to be told.

Have you seen Hotel Mumbai? Let me know what you think in the comments!
As always, thank you for reading!

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