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Movie review: Hotel Mumbai

Movie review: Hotel Mumbai

Movie review: Hotel Mumbai

20 March 2019

India’s Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, which was set on fire during a four-day reign of terror in 2008.

By Mark Hadley

Hotel Mumbai is based on the real terrorist attacks that rocked the city for four days in 2008. In particular, the story focuses on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai’s most luxurious five-star location.

David is an American guest staying with his wife, Sally, and their assistant, Zahra. At the other end of the spectrum is a lower-class waiter called Arjun, who leaves his pregnant wife each day to care for the needs of wealthy clientele.

And alongside Arjun, acting both as boss and mentor, is chef Hemant Oberoi, who daily reminds his staff of the level of dedication their service requires: “Remember always, here at the Taj, ‘Guest is God’.” 

This phrase takes on a new meaning, though, when the terrorist attack begins. As the 10 members of the Islamic terrorist group Lashkar e Toiba fan out through the city, indiscriminately killing with their AK-47s, a panic ensues that sends scores of people fleeing to the “Taj” for safety.

When terrorists slip into the hotel, a deadly cat and mouse game begins. Very quickly Arjun and Hemant must decide whether the hospitality they owe their guests includes laying down their lives.

The emotional impact of Hotel Mumbai arises from the recounts of real survivors, recorded in the documentary Surviving Mumbai. The result is a palpable sense of evil that is likely to affirm for every viewer that not every worldview can be tolerated.

However, it’s also likely to strengthen the popular view that religion – at least, unquestioning faith – is the most dangerous weapon in the terrorist’s arsenal.

Lashkar e Toiba means ‘Army of the Righteous’, and the most righteous thing their believer can do is kill those who deny their faith. Jesus warned his disciples that a day would come when people would harbour the mistaken belief that killing his followers could actually be considered service to God.

However, prominent atheists have inferred that this sort of violence is the birthright of every religion – including Christianity – that stubbornly maintains there is only ‘one way’ to please God.

The problem is that this thinking confuses faith with fanaticism. For some, they are one and the same thing, but fanaticism is actually what occurs when faith is absent. The terrorists who attacked Mumbai did so because they only had their ‘works’ to fall back on; they had no faith that simple trust in God was enough to save them.

And, like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, that lack of trust led to more and more fanatical efforts. Faith, though, is actually the opposite of such fanaticism. It doesn’t rely on our efforts, but rather rests on the object of our faith – the one in whom we put our trust.

That’s why Jesus said to a generation that was struggling to make their own way to Heaven: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

But if we set Jesus aside and choose to trust in something else, and if that object proves to be incapable of providing the peace our hearts yearn for, then once again we will be thrown back on our own efforts. And the hopelessness that results is enough to produce even the desperate violence Hotel Mumbai displays. 

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