Review: 'Hotel Mumbai' an unblinking look at terror

Movie goes inside the 2008 terrorist attacks at Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace Hotel

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Dev Patel in "Hotel Mumbai."

An intense, breathless thriller about the madness of terrorism, "Hotel Mumbai" is a disarming, disquieting experience that should cut through to even the most desensitized of viewers. 

First time filmmaker Anthony Maras lays out the November 2008 terror attacks that rocked Mumbai, India and left more than 170 people dead. He focuses on the siege of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, telling the story of the incident through the hotel staff, its guests, local law enforcement and the terrorists themselves, weaving a complex tale of heroism, confusion, horror and humanity.

We start with the terrorists, who begin their attacks in a railway station, making their way to a restaurant and through the streets of Mumbai, guided by a voice on the other end of a phone line. 

The chaos in the streets is juxtaposed with the tranquility of the Taj, the most majestic hotel in the city, where head chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) proclaims "guest is God." 

Among those guests are the well-to-do David (Armie Hammer), his wife, Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi), their newborn baby, and Vasili (Jason Isaacs), a seedy Russian playboy and high roller. 

Hemant runs a meticulous staff; early on, he sends home Arjun (Dev Patel) because of his lack of proper footwear, but Arjun convinces him to keep him on for the day because he needs the shift.

And then all hell breaks loose. 

Maras does an expert job of laying out the geography of the hotel, so we have a keen understanding of what's unfolding, and where.

And with a on-the-ground ferocity that recalls Paul Greengrass, Maras takes viewers on a horrifying ride through a real life nightmare. Uneasy and unnerving, "Hotel Mumbai" is a tough one to shake.

'Hotel Mumbai'


Rated R: for disturbing violence throughout, bloody images, and language

Running time: 125 minutes

Hotel Mumbai (R) 

A breathless, on-the-ground thriller about the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India that left more than 170 dead. (125 minutes) GRADE: B+