A dramatization of the 2008 India terrorist attack that took the lives of nearly 200 people, Hotel Mumbai opens with a dark, disturbing depiction of hatred and revenge that actually somewhat humanizes the assailants. As 10 intensely focused, docile and pious young men descend upon the city via rafts and taxis, told by a voice via earpieces that “paradise awaits,” their actions reveal them to be simultaneously vulnerable and monstrous. In turn, they resemble lambs — or, perhaps more accurately, mechanical wolves in disguise.
Among the innocents destined to cross these extremists’ paths is Arjun (Dev Patel), a waiter at The Taj Mahal Hotel whose commitment to providing for his child and pregnant wife is nearly dashed when head chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) threatens to send him home for tardiness and an improper uniform. Likewise heading to this prestigious establishment is an American man named David (Armie Hammer), his Muslim wife, Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi), their baby and British nanny (Tilda Cobham-Hervey), whose vacation in paradise is about to be violently interrupted.
As everyone with pleasant and innocent enough intentions settles into their new home at The Taj, others in town have much more sinister and brutal intentions, beginning with the unleashing of carnage at a train station. Police are murdered and killed, a police van is stolen, and things remain bloody and terrifying for three days as many civilians become victims of rapid-fire automatic weapons and hand grenades on a militaristic scale.
The hotel happens to be the last safe house for a group of people seeking refuge. Unfortunately, some of the perpetrators also manage to sneak in, setting up a frequently suspenseful hunt on one side and a quest for survival on the other. But as heroes emerge from among the hotel staff, special forces, police and other do-gooders thrust into action, the question still lingers: How broken and vexed must a human be to carry out such callous atrocities?