In today’s world we need heroes. We need to feel good about humans. Though this is a film which shows some of the worst behaviour, it also shows what we are capable of…love, bravery, heroism, and humanity. Shows that there is still light in this increasingly dark world. We just have to be willing to see it.
In late 2008 for the people of Mumbai it was the worst of times. Yet, through the horrifying and tragic conditions heroes emerged. Many from the most unlikely of people. Waiters, kitchen staff, chefs, police, and hotel guests all worked to get others out. Not fleeing when they had the opportunity; thinking of others instead of themselves. Willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Based on the events in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008, the citizens and visitors in the city were going about their day when terrorists began a calculated and synchronized attack. Extremist views have a higher chance of leading to some kind of violence because you are placing yourself in opposition to everyone else. This is exactly what happened when a group of young male Muslims from neighbouring Pakistan are sent by a leader, who calls himself the Bull, into the metropolis of Mumbai to carry out attacks.
Attacks on different targets including the train station and the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel. A hotel where plenty of wealthy foreigners stay. This is where all the terrorists meet up after carrying out their other smaller attacks. Where they are going to hunker down, kill hotel guests indescriminantly, look for important hostages to kill in a public way, and place bombs throughout the magestic hotel. Knowing that eventually forces will come to take them out. But these young men are so dedicated to the cause and the money that carrying this out will bring their families, they are willing to die. More than that, they all know they eventually will.
Once the attack begins on the Taj Mahal the bodies begin piling up as the terrorists kill everyone – guests and staff – who they come in contact with. If those who have survived this long, like Russian Vasili (Jason Isaacs – The Patriot, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2) and married couple, Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi – from television’s Homeland) and David (Armie Hammer – Call Me By Your Name, On the Basis of Sex), who are there with their infant son and British nanny, Sally (Tilda Cobham-Hervey – One Eyed Girl), are to make it out alive they will have to rely on the brave hotel staff who have stayed behind. Staff like waiter Arjun (Dev Patel – Slumdog Millionaire, Lion) and demanding head chef Oberoi (Anupam Kher – Silver Linings Playbook, The Big Sick), who are risking everything to get guests out alive.
Though we know the outcome of this the co-screenwriter/director Anthony Maras (first feature film) manages some surprises which emerge from up his sleeve. Though you know that what happened at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel took place over four days and resulted in 160 dead and 300 injured, there are still moments here which creep up on you. Keep you on edge with the lack of predictability. Important in a film like this. The bad guys are not one dimensional. Maras has instilled them with humanity. They exhibit fear, love of family and compassion. Plus they are largely poor and uneducated. Put up as the type which are vulnerable to those who wish to manipulate or radicalize them. As well, the good guys have nuances. The Russian, though he sticks by Zahra’s side despite the fact he would have had better odds on his own, is despicable in his regard for women. Some of the hotel staff choose to abandon guests choosing their own safety over others’.
His film is filled with harrowing, gut wrenching moments and poignant moments of bravery. Your emotions – from fear to tension to sadness to horror to admiration – will be all over the place. It is a wearying film to watch. With a run time of over two hours, you will feel like you have been put through the wringer once the lights go up. The violence, death and horror is unrelenting. While I “enjoyed” the film it made me wonder why anyone would put themselves through the watching of it.
A film like this reminds us that over a decade later we have not solved this problem. The scourge of terrorism. It continues today. Now in March 2019 acts of terrorism have happened around the globe. Seems like something we are not able to eliminate.