Hotel Mumbai

 

            November 26, 2008.  Ten jihadist terrorists land in an inflatable speedboat at Mumbai, all with backpacks and audio devices in their ears.  All are in constant communication with the “Bull,” their commander, hiding somewhere in Pakistan.  The nine men splash to shore quietly, and quickly take taxis to their separate destinations:  a railway station, a cafe, a hospital:  twelve locations in all.  The men are all young, and all single.  They have no families back home.  In fact, they fully expect never to return home, because they are fighting for Allah against the infidel, and they are going to Paradise.

            What follows is pure carnage.  Armed with AK-47s, grenades, and I.E.D.'s, the unsmiling, determined young men simply slaughter everyone in sight, while a stunned metropolis is frozen with fear and uncertainty.  It turns out their local police force does not have a trained S.W.A.T. Unit; they have to be dispatched from New Delhi.  The few local police who do venture into the hotel are themselves mercilessly dispatched, outgunned and unprepared.

            The movie focuses on the hotel known as the “Taj Mahal” of Mumbai, where the setting is exquisite and the service is extraordinary, because it is filled with rich tourists, the kind of people who the Bull insists are robbing Muslims of their rightful heritage.  The many wait staff are merely accomodators to the infidel, so they, too, need eliminating.

            DirectorAnthony Maras at first alternates between the sublime preparations of the Engligh-speaking waitstaff at the hotel, as they dish out gourmet food, and line up for “hand inspection” by the chief chef.  We follow one of the kitchen workers, Arjun (Dev Patel), as he says goodbye to his young child and pregnant wife, and rides his motor scooter to his coveted job, only to find that one of his dress shoes has fallen out of his carrying case.  He reports for duty in his socks and slides, which the chief chef says is unacceptable, and orders him to go back home.  Arjun begs to stay, pleading he has a young family to support, and finally his boss relents, saying there's an extra pair in his office.  Except they're too small, and Arjun quickly wears huge blisters on his feet, and noticably limps.  On any other day, maybe that wouldn't have mattered so much, but on this day, it was a considerable impediment.

            Though there are many rich patrons at the hotel, we focus on a handsome couple, David (Armie Hammer) and Zahra (Nanzanin Boniadi),with a young child and an “au pere,” Sally (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) in tow.  They get separated from each other in the bedlam and confusion, and take considerable risks to reunite during the horrific ordeal, which lasts hours, because help is not coming.  The dead are just left where they dropped, blood pooling beneath them, inside the hotel.  Receptionists are captured to call individual rooms so the patrons will open the door; if they refuse, they are shot.  A few wealthy-looking patrons are captured and brought to a separate room, which they think means that ransom will be demanded, but it's actually just so their executions can be cruelly recorded.

            Arjun and a few of the staff who stay behind manage to gather some of the guests in a private dining room, but there, too, they are discovered, and hunted down.  It's a grim tale of horrific hide-and-seek, and difficult to watch.  The masterminds were never caught.  The casualties numbered in the hundreds.  Nine of the terrorists got their wish and died in the attack; only one was captured.  Yes, there's some incidents of bravery, and touching affection in the face of grave danger, but mostly, it's just senseless slaughter, chillingly depicted as a solemn warning about the precariously dangerous place our world has become.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association