A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hotel Mumbai is a thriller based on a real-life terrorist attack on India's Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in 2008. Violence is brutal, graphic, and horrifying: There's constant shooting and killing, blood and gore, dead bodies, screams of pain, and grenades and explosions. Language includes several uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and more. Sex isn't really an issue, but a married couple kisses, and there's some sex-related dialogue in a couple of scenes. A bit of drinking is shown, both socially in a restaurant and to pass the time while hiding (it's mostly expensive bottles of liquor). While the film can be gripping, it's also overlong and has an uneasy feel, since it mixes "popcorn thriller" elements with a real-life atrocity. Dev Patel and Armie Hammer co-star.
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What's the story?
In HOTEL MUMBAI, it's just another day at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in India in 2008. Kitchen worker Arjun (Dev Patel) is late for work and has forgotten his shoes, so he must squeeze into a too-small spare pair. Head chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) inspects the staff and reminds them that the "guest is god." American David (Armie Hammer) arrives and checks in with his wife, Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi), their new baby, and their nanny (Tilda Cobham-Hervey). As David and Zahra dine, a group of terrorists invades the hotel and starts shooting everyone in sight. Arjun comes up with a plan to get everyone in the restaurant to the hotel's super-secret private club, while David decides to sneak back upstairs to try to rescue the baby. Meanwhile, local police do their best to stop the violence while waiting for backup. But the shocking atrocity shows no signs of ending anytime soon.
Is it any good?
Based on horrific real-life events, this thriller is skillfully made, but its use of creaky clichés and wrongheaded exploitation feels iffy at best and objectionable at worst. Making his feature debut, co-writer/director Anthony Maras clearly wants to pay tribute to those who risked their lives that day to help others, and Hotel Mumbai includes the expected epilogue with footage of the real-life survivors heroically returning to work and refusing to be terrorized. That aside, the rest of the movie has an uneasy feeling. While watching Hammer's character sneak around the opulent hallways, trying to avoid gunfire, it's easy to recall similar, popcorn-munching, shaky-cam thrillers and, at the same time, difficult to forget the actual tragedy that this situation is based on.
It's a troubling mix. Maras includes such devices as Patel's ill-fitting shoes (echoing Die Hard's barefoot hero), while failing to use them for anything in particular. Mini-stories within the larger narrative -- such as an older, white, racist lady who starts to accuse anyone with brown skin of being a terrorist -- are intended to ramp up the tension but end up feeling tacked on, as if they were mini-lessons the audience must learn. Plus, by attempting to focus on a wide variety of characters, Maras winds up exploring none of them thoroughly, and each situation becomes a wince-inducing waiting game, sickly anticipating the next explosion or noisy burst of gunfire. The wait, all 123 minutes of it, is unforgivably long, and the payoff isn't worth the effort.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Hotel Mumbai's violence. How intense is it? Is it thrilling or shocking? How is it similar to, or different from, the violence in a more traditional thriller? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
The movie is based on real events. Do you think its goal is to thrill or to inform? Does it seem respectful to the victims and survivors?
Are "based-on-a-true-story" movies more appealing than fictional ones? What do you suppose was added or changed for this movie? Why might filmmakers change the facts for a movie? Did the movie inspire you to learn more about what happened?
Is Arjun a hero or a role model? Why or why not?
- In theaters: March 22, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: June 18, 2019
- Cast: Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi
- Director: Anthony Maras
- Studio: Bleecker Street
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 123 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violence throughout, bloody images, and language
- Last updated: September 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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