November 15, 2019 – In November, 2008, a series of massive, coordinated terrorist shooting and bombing attacks in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) in India killed 174 people and wounded 300. This movie is about those attacks, specifically the attack against the staff and guests of the massive, ornate Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
This story is filled with victims, as well as a few heroes and villains, but the central character is a hotel waiter, Arjun (played by Dev Patel of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) who, along with his boss, Taj Mahal chef Hemant Oberoi (played by Anupam Kher of “The Big Sick”) rise to the occasion to save the lives of guests.
The 10 terrorists, members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic group based in Pakistan, are led by an unseen commander called “The Bull,” who issues commands to the team members by phone during the attacks. After arriving in a small boat, the terrorists land near the hotel. The 12 coordinated attacks begin on November 26.
Arjun hears gunfire in the hotel as he is waiting tables and springs into action, trying to keep the guests safe by hiding them and keeping them quiet. Gunmen walk though the hotel, killing most of the staff and guests on sight with machine guns, but they also take some rich guests hostage. Guests are told to remain locked in their rooms. Gunmen knock on hotel room doors, saying things like “room service,” to lure guests to their deaths.
The police response to the crisis is to wait for special military forces to arrive, which takes hours. A few brave policemen do enter the hotel, but they are badly outnumbered and out-gunned. Chaos reigns in Mumbai. The movie follows the police, some of the guests, and some of the staff, as they try to survive this ordeal.
The head chef, Hemant Oberoi devises a plan to move some guests to an exclusive dining room with strong doors and no windows. He hopes the terrorists are unaware of this room and that the guests will be safe there. Arjun hears of this plan and takes the guests he has been hiding to that same room. This seems like a good plan for a while, but then the terrorists set fire to the hotel.
Some of the guests are taken hostage and the movie shows their desperate plight. Another story follows a nanny, who is trying to hide and protect a child in her care as terrorists prowl nearby. The parents of the child get separated from each other and from the child during the attack. High drama and danger abound in this story.
This is a compelling drama, with some interesting characters. It is a story worth telling and movie worth seeing, because this could happen anywhere. I am surprised it hasn't happened in more places, especially in the United States, where guns like those used in this attack are so readily available. This movie rates a B.
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