There’s an ethical question to be raised here over whether traumatic events such as what occurred in 2008 in the city of Mumbai, where over 170 people were killed by terrorists, should be made into movies. If you have problems with that idea, this likely isn’t a good pick for you. What I’m reviewing here is the film itself, regardless of the intent to make it.
In the city of Mumbai, there is a luxury hotel called the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (or “The Taj” as it’s referred to). Suddenly Mumbai is hit by a massive and widespread terrorist attack, culminating in the hotel. We follow a few leads, including Dev Patel as a waiter and Anupam Kher as the head chef. A married couple (Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi) are visiting with their newborn baby, while a Russian businessman (Jason Isaacs) just wants to have fun while he’s in town. They’re all in the hotel when men armed with grenades and guns enter the hotel and begin a massacre. To make matters worse, the nearest qualified police officers are being sent from Delhi and won’t arrive until the next morning, so our leads will have to find a way to survive the night.
As a suspenseful action movie, this movie is incredibly compelling. It can be hard to watch, there’s some intense violence though it doesn’t linger on anything too long. I was never certain who would survive (or how), the movie had plenty of twists and moments that had you sit on the edge of your seat. That is what I look for in a film like this and this absolutely succeeds in that way.
I also want to applaud this film’s pacing. The very first shots of the film follow the terrorists as they begin the assault, so there’s no fluff and no backstory, it throws you right into it. I still was able to connect with our heroes, but the movie moves briskly to get us into the action. Never a dull moment.
Now, a tragedy like this wouldn’t be very effective if we weren’t connected to these characters. While they don’t get much backstory, I still found myself rooting for the heroes here. Dev Patel especially steals the show and his story left me in tears, it’s an outstanding performance. Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi are also fantastic, as they try to keep their child alive, when the slightest sound might alert the terrorists to their location.
In this genre, this movie is one of the best. If you’re lucky enough to have this film play near you, I’d definitely check it out.
What doesn’t work?
Like I said, there’s some ethical questions about this. Should movies be made, to profit off tragedies like this? If the answer is no, the question is where is that line drawn? Is it about how recent the incident was? Or the body count? It’s a complicated issue and some of you might choose to not see this film for that reason.
It also makes it harder to witness the massive body count here, when it reflects real people. Watching a fictional action film with a high count doesn’t affect you the same way, so some of you may have a very visceral reaction to this.
If you think you’d like this movie, I totally recommend it. I found it thrilling, intense, and unpredictable, with some incredible performances highlighted by Dev Patel. If you want a movie that will leave you reeling, have you emotionally invested, and constantly throw you for loops, this film will do it.