Hotel Mumbai feels like Exploitation

Nazanin Boniadi as “Zahra”, Dev Patel as “Arjun” and Armie Hammer as “David’ in director Anthony Maras’ HOTEL MUMBAI, a Bleecker Street release. Photo credit: Mark Rodgers/Bleecker Street

Hotel Mumbai basically serves as a reenactment of the awful terrorist attack that fell upon the city of Mumbai in November 2008.

For one waiter, Arjun (Dev Patel), he started off his day by running late and getting chewed out by head Taj Mahal Palace Hotel chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) for wearing the wrong pair of shoes.  The kitchen is under an insane amount of stress with the rival of David (Armie Hammer) and Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi).  This stress however is the least of their worries because the hotel will be under a terrorist attack in just a matter of hours.  All David and Zahra want to do is protect their child, Cameron, and nanny Sally (Tilda Cobham-Hervey),.  This means having to split up and adding another layer of stress to the matter.  With David gone, Russian millionaire Vasili (Jason Isaac) surprisingly finds a way to comfort her.

They are dealing with armed gunman who will stop at nothing.  All it takes is one person moving before the terrorists decide to kill them.  Chef Oberoi realizes that the Chambers Lounge is the best place for safety.  He passes this message along to Arjun, who is in the restaurant with many guests.  To the stairs they go!  But will they be safe once they arrive?  This is the burning question of the hour.

Last year marked the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.  While we briefly see the attack on the CST station, the main focus is on the Taj Motel.  The Chabad of Mumbai is only a blip on the radar with a brief mention of Gavriel (Gabi) and Rivky Holtzberg of blessed memory.  The attack on Chabad was a direct attack on the Jewish community.  But my thoughts on this not withstanding, the question that I keep asking myself is how soon is too soon?  Is 10-11 years too soon to essentially reenact one of the worst terrorist attacks that befell Mumbai in 2008?  Personally, I feel that the statute of limitations on such a story has yet to expire.

Here’s the thing that I don’t like about these films.  Real-life people get combined into composites.  Take Jason Isaacs’ Vasili, for instance.  The character is a composite of two different people who were staying at the hotel:  a playboy and a Special Forces officer.  On top of this, Dev Patel’s Arjun is a composite of several members of the hotel staff.

The acting performances are fine here, don’t get me wrong, but these films place as much focus on the victims as they do on the awful cowards.  Rewarding cowards for their crimes isn’t the way to go.  I’m sorry but this is how I feel when it comes to giving them their moment in the sun.  It wasn’t right when their faces were plastered all over the media nor is it right today.  It’s as if we’re watching an attack take place in real-time.  Meanwhile, some ten years later, we’re still awaiting justice as organizers of the attack are still at large.

To me, Hotel Mumbai serves as nothing but an unfortunate exploitation on the horrible events.

DIRECTOR:  Anthony Maras
SCREENWRITERS:  John Collee & Anthony Maras
CAST:  Armie Hammer, Dev Patel, Nazanin Boniadi, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, with Anupam Kher and Jason Isaacs

Bleecker Street opens Hotel Mumbai in theaters on March 29, 2019. Grade: 2.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.