wed 13/11/2019

Hotel Mumbai review – Dev Patel shines in harrowing real-life drama | reviews, news & interviews

Hotel Mumbai review – Dev Patel shines in harrowing real-life drama

Hotel Mumbai review – Dev Patel shines in harrowing real-life drama

The recreation of the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai is a testament to heroic hotel staff who wouldn't stop taking care of their guests

A long way from Slumdog Millionaire: Dev Patel in Hotel Mumbai

Like recent films about the Anders Breivik terror attacks in Norway, Hotel Mumbai unavoidably raises questions of taste. Do audiences really need to be subjected to harrowing recreations of real-life suffering, when the events themselves are still fresh? However it does offer one very moving justification, which is to honour the courage that invariably surfaces during such carnage.

The 2008 assault on Mumbai lasted three nights and involved a number of targets. After covering the first, devastating attacks on a train station and a restaurant, director Anthony Maras enters the doors of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel and more or less remains there for the duration, focussing on the hundreds of guests and staff trapped inside as heavily armed terrorists gunned down as many as they could find. 

In an odd way it plays like a disaster movie, following a handful of primary characters as they sneak around the luxurious building, trying to survive. Among these are Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi as a wealthy couple who are separated from their newborn child and nanny after the terrorists enter the hotel; Jason Isaacs (pictured below with Boniadi) as a Russian businessman with a rep as a troublesome guest and boor who reveals a more compassionate side as the night progresses; and Anupam Kher and Dev Patel as, respectively, head chef and waiter, whose courage and good sense will save a great many guests. While all are exemplary, Patel is the stand-out with a performance of enormous dignity as a Sikh from an impoverished district,who never allows the guests’ ingratitude or racial intolerance to cloud his own behaviour. 

Maras may deny us a political framework and any investigation as to why the response of India’s police and military was so tardy, but he doesn’t ignore the deep class divide of those suddenly endangered together, or the irony at the heart of the hotel’s tragic experience. Half of the people killed there were staff who stayed behind to take care of guests – maintaining their maxim that “the guest is god” to the bitter end. 

As for their tormenters, the Islamic militants from Pakistan are given minimal shading, but enough to suggest in these very young men a complex mixture of commitment, naivete and exploitation. Their brutality makes it hard to sympathise.

The orchestration of the action inside the rooms, halls, corridors and service areas of the hotel is masterful, the tension unrelenting. The film would have benefitted from more context and less savagery, but there’s no denying its accomplishment as a heart-in-mouth drama that never loses its grip, nor its ability to disturb and move in equal measure.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.