‘Hotel Mumbai’ review: A missed opportunity to present an immersive experience

A scene from ‘Hotel Mumbai’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

One usually does not read the disclaimer at the beginning of a film too closely — mainly because we have read similar stuff many times. You just do a kind of skim reading. However, for some reason, I read the disclaimer at the beginning of Anthony Maras’ Hotel Mumbai and the word that jumped out was ‘entertainment’. How can the horrific events of November 26, 2008 be entertaining? It cannot be schadenfreude or the usual fun of disaster movies where we can blithely watch a town, a multi-storey building or an ocean liner be destroyed by a volcano, asteroid, earthquakes, giant radioactive lizards or aliens, comfortable in the knowledge that the lava will stop an inch away from the hero and his sweet, golden dog.


This really happened — Mumbai was under a massively well-coordinated terror attack. And while there have been movies based on true events that are gripping, Hotel Mumbai does not fall under that category. Apart from being awfully exploitative, the film is not particularly gripping. So you end up with a briskly moving, but loosely plotted, manipulative film. The film would have been helped by multiple points of view, including that of the security forces, the media and from across the border. Tension could have been ratcheted up by showing the claustrophobia of endless corridors of a vast, grand hotel brought to its knees, instead of showing people scurrying here and there. Apart from the mandatory slum shot, there weren’t many perspective shots, thereby losing out on a chance of being immersive.

Hotel Mumbai
  • Director: Anthony Maras
  • Cast: Dev Patel, Anupam Kher, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Jason Isaacs, Suhail Nayyar, Nagesh Bhosle, Natasha Liu Bordizzo
  • Story line: A recreation of the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks
  • Run time: 125 minutes

As far as characters go, apart from the waiter Arjun, and head chef Hemant Oberoi, the rest of the Indians are just a faceless mass. The foreigners, on the other hand, including British heiress, Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi), her American husband David, her baby Cameron, nanny Sally (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) and Russian high roller Vasili have much more screen time and more detailed character arcs and backstories.

There are a couple of moments of pure adrenaline — where the tourists inform a waiter about a mistake with their order and the next moment the waiter is shot down and Chef Oberoi’s inspection of his troops before dinner. Unfortunately such visceral moments are few and far between. As far as period details go, wasn’t that the time of the Blackberry?

Of the cast, Dev Patel is likeable as Arjun while Anupam Kher is majestic as Oberoi. Armie Hammer, with his blond hair and blue-eyed good looks, does not have much to do with his white saviour role as David. Jason Isaacs who we remember as evil Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films has fun as Vasili.

Hotel Mumbai premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2018, and was released in the US in March 2019. On top of everything else, the timing of its India release seems opportunistic.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 5:35:38 PM |

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