Screenings: May 10-16
Show Times: Nightly, except Saturday, at 7:30 pm. Saturday matinee at 1:30 pm; Sunday matinee at 2:30 pm. Open caption screening Sunday night. No one will be admitted after the film has started.
Admission: Regular $7; Matinees $6; MVFS Members $5; Seniors over 60, Military and Students with ID $6; Wednesdays $5. We do not sell tickets in advance. Doors open 45 minutes before showtime.
Running Time: 123 min
Film Director: Anthony Maras
At the five-star Taj Mahal Palace hotel “guest is God”. So says head chef Oberoi (Anupam Kher) to his staff before they begin serving the dinner during which the hotel will come under siege from four gunmen intent on a massacre. Based on the series of terrorist attacks that occurred in Mumbai in 2008, Hotel Mumbai recounts how the Taj’s guests and staff fought to survive those four days.
It’s an ensemble piece as director Anthony Maras weaves various perspectives into a tightly constructed narrative. Dev Patel (delivering a subdued yet excellent performance) plays a server under the watchful eye of Chef Oberoi who is suddenly tasked with keeping his guests alive when the attacks break out. Armie Hammer is the Jack-and-Coke drinking all-American husband of Nazanin Boniadi – the couple decide to leave their baby upstairs with the nanny while they dine in the hotel’s restaurant. Jason Isaacs’s sleazy Russian businessman dines nearby. Other narratives include the Mumbai police officers who infiltrate the hotel to get to the CCTV cameras, Patel’s character’s wife watching the news footage, and a young Aussie couple backpacking across India.
For all its subplots, Maras keeps a tight leash on the film’s narrative strands as we watch characters move in and out of each other’s stories. The use of real news footage on background televisions is a clever way of dealing with exposition, allowing the plot to move briskly along.
The impact of the terrorist attack on locals and visitors is shown in equal measure, a change from the disaster movie genre that typically favours showing Americans overcoming tragic circumstances in a foreign country. Time isn’t given to exploring the relationship between locals and guests beyond “guest is God,” and one scene attempting to do so between a racist guest and Patel’s character is a little on the nose. Class is handled with a bit more complexity as the line between guests and staff remains in place despite the life-and-death situation.
Maras makes an unusual decision in giving much of the narrative space to the four gunmen, seemingly in an attempt to humanise the terrorists. The film’s more humorous moments occur in these scenes. One of the men takes a bite of a pizza until he’s told by his brother-in-arms that it’s pork. Spluttering wildly, he’s laughed at, “they’re just vegetables”. It’s funny until they turn and shoot a woman in the head. It’s in these moments of jarring tonal shifts where Hotel Mumbai’s otherwise tight pacing and structure begins to unwind. Scenes of violence are graphic but the film’s real horror comes from its tension. In a closet, a baby’s cries are stifled while the gunman stands outside. The receptionists are held at gunpoint and told to call guests’ rooms telling them to unlock their doors.
But despite these tonal issues, Hotel Mumbai is an excellent, white-knuckle thriller – and an unlikely crowd-pleaser. Katie Goh, The Guardian. Rated (for disturbing violence throughout, bloody images, and language).