Hotel Mumbai ★★★★½

Well, this film kept me on the edge of my seat and my heart pulsing for much of its two-hour running time! A recreation of the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai's luxurious Taj Mahal Hotel, one witnesses close-up intentional shootings of the hotel's guest and the tension and trauma of those guests and staff in hiding and attempting to escape.

The cast is uniformly good - Dev Patel portraying a Sikh waiter, hunky Armie Hammer and Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi playing a wealthy honeymooning couple (with baby and au pair), and a number of excellent South Asian actors I was less familiar with playing hotel staff and the radical terrorists. The violence throughout is startling and hard to watch, yet this is the type of killings we are seeing more and more in an age of terrorism. I was not familiar with the Australian director Anthony Maras but he holds the tension throughout.

I had some initial concerns prior to watching this: that it would be another "disaster" film highlighting noble white characters in a foreign setting. But this was not the case, as there is equal emphasis to the many stories unfolding, including those of the Indian staff as well as the terrorists. I also worried it would be a stereotypical anti-Muslim film, but it really is about fanaticism and does a good job of portraying the young male terrorists in a way the differentiates between them. And lets' face it, we currently have a similar epidemic of white nationalist terrorists in America, with the repeated mass shootings that keep occurring.

The only part of the plot that was hard to get was the devotion the hotel staff displayed toward their rescue of the guests. They clearly were heroic but in a few characters there was a strong colonialist flavor, highlighting their responsibility towards the guests (one character says "The guest is God") over their own well-being. But this may have been accurately portrayed even though it felt strange to my own principles.

A film well-worth watching. I caught it as a rental from Netflix but I am sure it's also available to stream.