Hotel Mumbai Is A Heartbreaking Horror Story

Plus a story line that the reviewers seem to have missed: Twitter

Illustration by the author.

Two weeks ago I finally got around to seeing the horrific story of terror that took place during Thanksgiving Weekend in 2008. The film attempts to tell the story of the terrorist attack on Mumbai, but focuses on the action that occurs at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

The event was vividly seared into my memory because of a singular feature of the massacre that was not even mentioned in the film. The story was unfolding live on Twitter before it got any coverage whatsoever from mainstream media, or any media.

I wrote a pair of blog posts about this event, one of them while it was happening and not yet resolved Mumbai Heartbreak Hotel.

The big screen film was an Australian, Indian and American co-production that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2018, ten years after the actual events. One of the questions such films raise is that of how soon after tragic events is it acceptable to throw peoples’ stories up onto the silver screen. Are films like this important or exploitation?

After watching the film I went to the reviews at and found a majority to be favorable. One was titled Action, intensity & suspense from start to finish. The author wrote, “Strongly recommended, but be prepared for a lot of blood and violence.” Another called it an “Unrelenting, white-knuckle thriller.”

Another said “Do not miss this movie!” while other called it typical, formulaic Hollywood revisionism. This writer stated, For the true accounts of exactly what happened at Hotel Mumbai (and around the city) during the terrorist attacks, watch any one of the many documentaries available. This is just a fantasy version trying to mix “Die Hard” with “hotel Rwanda”. It’s bad.

Moral Dilemma

Another reviewer wrote, “Even if you can resolve the moral dilemma this raises for the viewer: Getting a thrill at the cost of reconstructing a live terrorist attack, we’re both invited to marvel at the luxury of one of the most famous hotel in the World and then have to witness the guests and staff summarily slaughtered.”

I suspect that Australian director Anthony Maras attempted to make it a story less about the attack and more about the heroic actions of certain people within the context of this real life nightmare. This could be used as a justification, I suppose, but I’m not sure.

The actual event

The actual event involved 10 members of an extremist Islamist terrorist organization based in Pakistan. who carried out 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days. As I followed the story on Twitter at the time, I found it astounding that this handful of armed men could maintain a four day stranglehold on a major city like that.

What’s amazing to me is that if you watched this film, you’d think most of the slaughter took place at the Taj Mahal Palace, when in reality there were nearly twice as many people killed at the railway station (59) as at the hotel (31). Not one of those at the railway station survived and 166 people were killed over the four days and nearly 300 injured.

I myself came away from the film with mixed feelings. It created a fairly distorted view of the event itself. At times it felt like one of those shoot ’em up video games where the player has endless rounds of ammunition and simply walks around shooting people.

For those interested in learning more about really happened during that tragic weekend, here’s a lengthy Wikipedia account. There were also documentaries produced that may better to illuminate.

If you are from India or Pakistan

I am writing this review in part because of the international nature of Medium and am interested in viewpoints from people for whom this was a more vivid real-life experience. For most Americans it was just another news story. What were your impressions of what happened at that time.

My prayer is for healing through understand.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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