Show & Tell: Hotel Mumbai


Last month, we held a discussion of Cold War, a movie that explored the fate of love and art in a repressive dictatorship. Then, last week, it was a discussion of Diane, a movie that examined the consequences of a betrayal and one woman’s inability to deal with her own guilt. Each film was a cinematic masterpiece, and ranked high on critics’ lists of the best movies of the past year.

But you can’t spend all your time talking about movies that offer searching examinations of weighty issues. Or at least I can’t.

Sometimes, what you want is a movie with heroes and villains, action and suspense and an appetite for showing the consequences of violence and the heroes who emerge from violent situations.

And that’s exactly what Hotel Mumbai does.

The movie is based on the real-life 2008 terrorist attack on the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, India. The film follows the terrorists as they come ashore and head for the hotel with backpacks crammed with guns and ammo and explosives, and shows what a group of 10 men can do to a hotel full of innocent guests and staff.

A large part of the action of Hotel Mumbai is the extraordinary efforts that hotel staff (including a waiter played by Dev Patel, who is apparently contractually required to be in any movie released in the West that is set in India) make to protect their guests. And the movie also follows one couple, played by Armie Hammer (an actor who’s making a name for himself as a bankable star) and Nazanin Boniadi (Homeland), to protect their child.

Much could be said about the simmering tensions between Islamic Pakistan and predominantly Hindu India, and it would be irresponsible not to put these attacks into perspective.

But what Hotel Mumbai is trying to do is show the human costs and the potential for human bravery that accompany this kind of incident.

And what I will try to do is look at the movie as an action movie, a human drama and a cautionary tale.

The Music Hall doesn’t generally book movies that are pure escapism, and I don’t think we’re in for anything like a summer action movie.

Well, maybe a little.

I’m looking forward to it, and I hope to see you there, which will be in the Historic Theater at 7:00.

Paul Goodwin