In November of 2008, four terrorists entered the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, India. They began to massacre everyone they came across. Without going into too much detail, the siege lasted over 60 hours leaving many dead and injured. First time feature filmmaker Anthony Maras brings this story to life in Hotel Mumbai.
Hotel Mumbai stars Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Nazanin Boniadi, Jason Isaacs and Anupam Kher. Dev is Arjun, a waiter at the hotel. His performance is absolutely. The emotion he is able to bring to this role is perfect. One scene in particular has Arjun trying to comfort an older guest, a really beautiful moment. He is easily one of the best actors under 30 working today, and will no doubt be an Oscar winner in the future.
Armie Hammer is almost equally as good as American tourist David, with his desperation to get to his baby son Nathan particularly telling. He leaves the tough man act at home too, which is great, his acting chops are on display and he does not disappoint anywhere. Nazanin plays Zahra, David’s wife and the mother of their son. She is amazing in the role, managing to display the desperation she has to get to her son and husband amidst the tragedy, once he leaves her side to find the boy. Cobham-Hervey plays Sally, an Australian nanny who is charged with looking after baby Nathan in their hotel room while David and Zahra are downstairs at dinner. Tilda shines in this role, and I would expect that it will bring her further success in the film industry. Her ability to show fear and courage at the same time was beautiful to watch.
Jason Isaacs is also great as a Russian, ex-military man. While there are no heroics for his experienced character his relaxed persona releases a bit of tension for the audience. While Anupam Kher does not have a large role, it is a mightily important one. I thought his role as Hemant Oberoi, the head chef of the Taj Hotel really deserves a mention, not just because of a great performance but because of the actions the man (in the film and real life) takes to ensure the safety of the guests. The real Chef Oberoi attended the films premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival to which he received a standing ovation once pointed out by director Anthony Maras.
The film not only follows the lives of the hostages, but it also gives an appropriate amount of screen time and attention to the terrorists. While all four actors are great in their roles, the unusual amount of humanization that is given to them is pivotal. They share jokes, tears and worries together. While none of what they have done is acceptable, understanding why they are doing it gives the film a real sense of honesty and almost appreciation for what desperation can make someone do. Whether it be a heroic action, or a far more sinister one.
The film’s screen writers (John Collee and Anthony Maras) went to extreme lengths researching the attack – from reviewing all news footage and reading not only court transcripts but transcripts between phone calls made between the terrorists and their boss. One scene in particular, in which a woman is praying in the face of death is absolutely mesmerizing, but also completely true. The script is damn near perfect. Maras, also directs the film with such tension that I literally could not take my eyes off the screen but also at times, could not bear to watch. Maras made me feel for and care for the characters, I wanted them all to survive. To see such a random group of characters care and support each other really is a beautiful thing and Maras gets the actors to portray there courage and resilience perfectly.
Hotel Mumbai engages you from the very beginning and keeps your attention until the very end. Hotel Mumbai is an easy 5 star film.
Director: Anthony Maras
Cast: Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Tilda Cobham-Hervey
Writers: John Collee, Anthony Maras