HOTEL MUMBAI – Fantastic Factual Survival Thriller

It’s been a while between reviews – Salty Popcorn is slowing down this year, as excitedly (and sadly) careers are taking off and over. Who would have thought working for yourself would involve more work haha?? I never thought that one through, but alas we will be endeavouring to bring you as many reviews as we can. I got to watch this beauty, HOTEL MUMBAI, a couple of weeks back and I was all in. Anything starring Dev Patel and I’m onboard – the audience was not disappointed.

HOTEL MUMBAI is out now in Australia from Icon Film Distribution, it is rated MA15+ and runs for 123mins.

Hotel Mumbai Dev Patel image
Dev Patel



HOTEL MUMBAI is based on the true story of the devastating terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in 2008.

The terrifying assault brings together the guests and staff of the luxurious hotel including wealthy new parents David and Zahra (Armie Hammer and Nazanin Boniadi), Russian businessman Vasili (Jason Issacs) and newly promoted waiter Arjun (Dev Patel) in a desperate fight for survival. This story celebrates humanity, compassion, courage, resilience and the unwavering desire to survive.

Hotel Mumbai Nazanin Boniadi and Armie Hammer image
Nazanin Boniadi and Armie Hammer


HOTEL MUMBAI is mostly inspired by a true story and is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with survivors and witnesses. In November 2008, ten Pakistani members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic militant organization, carried out a series of twelve coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai in India. The attacks, which drew widespread global condemnation, began on Wednesday 26th November and lasted until Saturday 29th November, killing 164 people and wounding at least 308.

Eight of the attacks occurred in South Mumbai: at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Trident Oberoi Hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, the Leopold Cafe, the Cama Hospital, the Nariman House Jewish community center, the Metro Cinema, St. Xavier’s College, and in a lane behind ‘The Times of India’ building.

While there were two hotels attacked, this film is centred on the one, The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Following the terrorist attacks in 2008 the hotel was fully restored by 2010 and the end of the film sees all the remaining staff present in the hotel, something that was quite emotional. A memorial monument stands in the lobby at the hotel to commemorate the victims and fatalities from the 2008 siege.


HOTEL MUMBAI was originally touted as an Oscar film but while it is impressive and immersive it doesn’t quite reach the Oscar echelons. Anthony Maras, in his feature directorial debut, leads a strong film that is very much reminiscent of Paul Greengrass. It has good factual elements and reminded me of UNITED 93 in its delivery and does a fantastic job of mixing actual real life footage from 2008 with exteriors shot in Mumbai and interiors shot on a soundstage in South Australia.

A lot of the dialogue from characters, evil or not, are taken word for word from actual recordings. The 2008 footage is seamlessly included and adds more tension and a serious amount of questioning humanity over this ridiculously senseless slaughter.

I thoroughly enjoyed HOTEL MUMBAI but the film does follow actual events and some of them may seem cliche and some heroic, and some might seem not heroic enough. This is because most of us have been brought up on Hollywood hero movies. I desperately wanted Dev picking up a machine gun and Yippee Ki Yaying those mofos back to hell but alas, this is not DIE HARD 7: DEV DOES DELHI.

Hotel Mumbai Jason Isaacs image
Jason Isaacs


The success from HOTEL MUMBAI comes from the human element, seeing people rise or fall under pressure and from the unwavering support of the staff of the The Taj. They are trained to appreciate staff as their gods when at work and they risk literally everything to keep them as safe as they can. Familiar faces of Dev, Armie and Jason fill the screen but they are merely characters in a large ensemble of actors.

And the action is heavy with a lot of body counts, but before you salivate and get off on your gaming addiction with killing, take a moment to realise these were all real people who were murdered. That reality element is actually heartbreaking – what would I, or you, do in hat position? In this current environment this kind of sensely terrorism seems much more possible.


As mentioned Dev and Armie are part of a huge ensemble cast of actors. A large proportion of the production of this film is from the same people who worked on LION in 2016. And another fun fact – this was originally a Weinstein movie as Harvey loved Dev in LION – but well know how that ended up and the film’s rights were lost. I loved Dev in this and can watch him in anything, ever since he was the gangly annoying stoner in SKINS he has just lit up the screen. Armie plays a slightly less prominent character but a pivotal one nonetheless.

Nazanin Boniadi is marvellous as the partner to Armie and she has a major scene towards the end that was incredibly powerful and one that has stayed with me. Jason Issac’s character was kind of annoying but his performance was on point. Tilda Cobham-Hervey was wonderful as the petrified nanny who at any moment could be discovered from a baby crying – I nearly thought she would kill the baby at one stage.

Even though he played a terrorist Amandeep Singh really lit up the screen with his scenes and finally, master Indian actor, Anupam Kher, played his 501st performance in HOTEL MUMBAI – what an achievement. Kher played the role of Head Chef Oberoi.

Hotel Mumbai Tilda Cobham-Hervey image
Tilda Cobham-Hervey and the Bubba


HOTEL MUMBAI won’t win any oscars but it is a powerful and engaging survival thriller based on the true terrorist events that took place in the Taj Mahal Hotel in 2008. Definitely see this for some wonderful and harrowing humanity on display and for the fine performances of Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Tilda Cobham-Hervey and more. Imagine this as a Paul Greengrass UNITED 93 movie set in a Hotel in Mumbai and you’re on the money.


Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.