On November 26, 2008, radical Islamists from Pakistan launched a series of coordinated attacks around the city of Mumbai which would claim 174 lives and leave hundreds more wounded. Within hours of the raid, the authorities were able to secure all of the sites except for the legendary Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
The perpetrators ostensibly picked the legendary 5-star resort as the location for a final showdown because of its image as a getaway spot for rich and famous Westerners. The siege there would last four days, since the local police were outgunned by the terrorists who were heavily armed with bombs, hand grenades, and automatic weapons.
Directed by Anthony Maras, Hotel Mumbai is a harrowing docudrama which recreates the horrific events which transpired inside the Taj. In making his movie, the first-time filmmaker relied heavily on Mumbai Massacre, a 2009 documentary composed of survivors’ recollections of their nightmares.
This fictionalized account, which changes names and conflates characters, primarily revolves around the ordeals of Arjun (Dev Patel) and David (Armie Hammer). The former is a selfless Sikh waiter who exhibits extraordinary heroism in an effort to save as many of the hotel’s traumatized guests as possible. The latter is a frazzled tourist desperate to reunite with his wife (Nazanin Boniadi), baby, and nanny (Tilda Cobham-Hervey).
Besides these protagonists, the film features a profusion of simplistically-drawn supporting players, typical of the disaster flick genre. There’s the Russian playboy (Jason Isaacs), an elitist, world-class chef (Anupam Kher), a deferential butler (Alex Pinder), and so forth.
After the motley ensemble is introduced, the burning question left to be answered is which of these trapped victims will be able to remain undiscovered by the bloodthirsty assassins until the Special Forces Unit finally arrives from Delhi, some 800 miles away.
Yes, the hotel is ultimately retaken and order is restored. Nevertheless, the S.W.A.T. team’s belated triumph remains overshadowed by the sobering reality of so many lives senselessly lost. In sum, an uplifting tale of heroism and survival, as well as a haunting reminder of the evil that men do.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, bloody images, and pervasive violence
Running time: 123 minutes
Production Companies: Thunder Road Pictures/Xeitgeist Entertainment Group/ Arclight Films Electric Pictures
Distributors: Bleecker Street
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening April 5, 2019
The Best of Enemies (PG-13 for violence, mature themes, racial epithets, and a sexual reference) Unlikely-buddies drama, set in Durham, North Carolina in the ’60s, based on Osha Gray Davidson’s best-seller of the same name, recounting the unlikely, real-life friendship forged between a Ku Klux Klansman (Sam Rockwell) and a civil rights activist (Taraji P. Henson) on opposing sides of a protracted school desegregation fight. With Anne Heche, Wes Bentley, and Bruce McGill.
Pet Sematary (R for profanity, violence and bloody images) Remake of the 1989 horror film based on the Stephen King best-seller about a doctor (Jason Clarke) who discovers a mysterious burial ground in the woods near his new home, after relocating his family from Boston to Maine. Principal cast includes Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow, Jete Laurence, Lucas Lavoie, and Hugo Lavoie.
Shazam! (PG-13 for profanity, intense action, and suggestive material) Adaptation of the DC Comics series about a street-smart, 14-year-old orphan (Asher Angel) who morphs into a superhero just by shouting “Shazam!” Origins tale finds him learning to harness his powers with the help of his foster brother (Jack Dylan Grazer) prior to a showdown with a proverbial evil wizard (Mark Strong) bent on world domination. Ensemble cast includes Zachary Levi, Djimon Hounsou, Meagan Good, Adam Brody, and Michelle Borth.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
Amazing Grace (G) 1972 concert flick featuring Aretha Franklin performing gospel songs with the choir of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Watts. With Clara Ward, Bernard Purdie, Reverends James Cleveland and C.L. Franklin, and the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts.
Berserk (Unrated) Suspense thriller about a fading movie star (Nick Cannon) whose attempt to produce his BFF’s (Rhys Wakefield) zombie script turns tragic when there’s a death on the set. With James Roday, Erin Moriarty, and Dolly Gray.
Billboard (Unrated) Radio waves drama about a DJ (John Robinson) who devises a plan to save his struggling station by hosting a billboard sitting contest. Cast includes Eric Roberts, Heather Matarazzo, and Darlene Cates.
High Life (R for profanity, violence, sexual assault, and graphic nudity) Futuristic sci-fi thriller about an ex-con astronaut (Robert Pattinson) and his test tube baby daughter (Scarlett Lindsey) who are the sole survivors of a crew aboard a spaceship on a mission to a black hole. With Juliette Binoche, Andre’ Benjamin, and Victor Banjeree.
Peterloo (PG-13 for a scene depicting violence and chaos) Seven-time, Oscar-nominee Mike Leigh wrote and directed this historical drama, set in 1819, recounting the British cavalry’s massacre in Manchester of peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators. Co-starring Rory Kinnear, Maxine Peake, and Rachel Finnegan.
The Public (PG-13 for nudity, profanity, mature themes, and suggestive content) Civil rights saga, set in Cincinnati, chronicling a battle between the homeless and the police over access to the library during a cold snap. Ensemble cast includes Alec Baldwin, Emilio Estevez, Gabrielle Union, and Christian Slater.
The Wind (Unrated) Western horror flick set on the plains frontier where a settler (Caitlin Gerard) is being slowly driven crazy by her haunted homestead. With Miles Anderson, Dylan McTee, and Ashley Zukerman.
This Week’s DVD Releases
- Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase
- The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot
- The Mule
- Nazi Junkies
- The Heart Guy: Series 3
- Rake: Series 5
- Rust Creek