(director/writer: Anthony Maras; screenwriter: John Collee; cinematographer: Nick Remy Matthew; editors: Peter McNulty/Anthony Maras; music: Volker Bertelmann; cast: Anupam Kher (Chef Hemant Oberoi), Armie Hammer (David), Nazanin Boniadi (Zahra), Jason Isaacs (Vasili), Dev Patel (Arjun), Angus McLaren (Eddie), Tilda (Sally Cobham-Hervey), (Amandeep Singh (Imran), Suhail Nayyar (Abdullah), Yash Trivedi (Ajay), Gaurav Paswala (Sanjay); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Basil Iwanyk, Gary Hamilton, Mike Gabrawy, Julie Ryan, Andrew Ogilvie, Jomon Thomas; Bleecker Street; 2018-Australia/USA/India-in English, Arabic, Hindi, Russian, with English subtitles when necessary)

“A gripping but flawed docudrama about a real-life tragedy caused by terrorists in Mumbai, India.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Anthony Maras in his directorial feature debut gives us a gripping but flawed docudrama about a real-life tragedy caused by terrorists in Mumbai, India, and the heroism over the hotel staff’s efforts that averted more lives lost.

The incident took place for over three days in November 2008. The Pakistani Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba assault affected several locations in the big city, but the filmmaker concentrated only on the bloody attack at the top-rated Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, a popular tourist spot for wealthy Westerners. At the Taj invasion, there were four jihadists (Amandeep Singh, Suhail Nayyar, Yash Trivedi, Gaurav Paswala). They received their orders on radio from unseen terrorist leaders in Pakistan. The screenplay is co-written by Maras and by Scottish writer John Collee, who in an exploitative way show too much of the gore. Though skillfully executed, the film fails to excite as much as it should. The story centers around the following characters: the kitchen worker Arjun (Dev Patel), the head chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher), who tells the staff that the “guest is god,” David (Armie Hammer) the white American architect guest and his Middle Eastern wife Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi), and their infant and their nanny (Tilda Cobham-Hervey). While David and Zahra are dining the four young terrorists invade the hotel and start randomly shooting at everybody. Meanwhile Arjun acts to get as many guests as he can to the hotel’s super-secret private club, while David retreats to his room, dodging gunfire in the hallway, to rescue his baby. The local police call for back-up and try to stop the invaders, but the tragedy goes on for an endless three days before resolved.

The film wishes to pay homage to the brave hotel staff, those who remained to help despite the dangers. In this it succeeded.Though it’s a true story, it introduces too many invented scenes and fictional characters, whose stories are the usual Hollywood ones and seem tacked on. Also it’s too long at 123 minutes.