Terror lurks along every floor, every corridor by Richard Jones

A look at Hotel Mumbai (MA)

MumbaiI daresay it’s a tad gruesome to watch a movie depicting terrorists slaughtering hotel guests a mere 24 hours after the horrific shootings in Christchurch. But that’s what we did on the weekend as we took in the movie about the attacks in Mumbai towards the end of November 2008.

Ten Pakistani shooters arrive unnoticed on the sea shore of Mumbai’s slums in an inflatable rubber dinghy and disperse towards their targets. Two head to the main railway station. The others head to the city’s biggest and brightest hospitality complex: the world famous Taj Hotel.

We don’t ever find out much about these young men, so ready to kill without warning, but Aussie director Anthony Maras (helming his first movie) shows us how committed they are. They’re in constant contact through their ear-pieces with their fanatical controller who’s somewhere back home in Pakistan as they creep around the huge hotel shooting anyone who moves. Fortunately for the high paying guests there are a number of staff members who put their own lives on the line to assist. Chief among these is head chef Oberoi (Anupam Kher) who never loses his cool as he shepherds guests and staff to safe territory.

Their best refuge is the exclusive club on one of the middle floors. Its main doors are made of such stout timber that the terrorists can’t gain entry. Bullets won’t work and nor will tables turned into battering rams. Poor waiter Arjun (Dev Patel, where would an Indian film be without Dev…) is another like the head chef who works out escape routes for the guests and staff. His is down many stairwells to the rear entrances.

An affluent couple played by Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniani were at dinner when the shooting and hand grenade bombing started. So they’re separated from their baby and nanny (Tilda Cobham-Harvey) who are both upstairs in their plush suite although they manage to remain in contact through mobile phones. Another well-heeled guest is a rather crude Russian (Jason Isaacs) who looks after the mother when she and her husband are separated as hubby desperately sets out to reach their suite.

It’s only when the Pakistani controller tells his killers to tie up the wealthy patrons so they can be shot later on a hotel balcony that we find out the Russian is an ex-Special Services military man.

To deflect the wounded killer who’s stationed in their room as he starts out, under new orders from the controller, to execute them the tough Russian bites his attacker on his leg wound, hands tied behind his back and all. He’s shot in the back of the head as he lies on the floor.  And how did the room guard get injured? Well, two very courageous Indian detectives and three soldiers had crept though a front entrance to engage the terrorists. Armed only with hand guns and completely outgunned by the terrorists with their rapid fire weapons the two cops fire off a few shots. They hit the Pakistani, eventually stationed in the hostage room, in the leg effectively cutting short his sorties through the hotel corridors. That was one of the sticking points for me. How did the Indian authorites not have armed police in flak jackets – not to mention Army combat troops – at their disposal early on.

The drama drags on not for hours, but days and days, as the Indian military forces even fly in special troops from New Delhi, an eight-hour trip away. Before the attackers were shot dead more than 170 people died and 300 were wounded. Only one wounded terrorist survived.

Still the film isn’t condemnatory about the appallingly slow response time and amazingly the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel (damaged by hand grenades and even some explosives, not to mention AK-47 gunshots) was completely re-built and re-purposed in 21 months.



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