What would you do if you were staying in an unfamiliar hotel in a strange country – your parents have gone out, and then militants arrive, attack and burn your hotel? This is the premise of the film Taj Mahal based on true events that took place in Mumbai in 2008.
The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, located in downtown Mumbai, was one of several places assaulted by 10 well-trained militants who arrived at the city by inflatable raft on the night of 26 November 2008 and caused panic for the next three days, killing 164 people. Westerners were targeted which made this an especially newsworthy event abroad. However, these attacks were nothing new in Mumbai, which had suffered several such episodes previously.
Stacy Martin plays Louise, who has moved to Mumbai with her English mother (Gina McKee) and French father (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) for his new job. They stay temporarily at the Taj Mahal Hotel, weathering the minor inconveniences of settling in and getting accustomed to the city.
Gunshots and explosions erupt outside her room while her parents are at dinner and Louise has to fend for herself until rescued.
While most of this film is full of suspense and desperation, unfortunately the rest just coasts along culminating in a very disappointing ending.
The film does have some memorable moments, one being Louise trying to help the woman 2 floors below her whose husband has tried to escape and is presumed dead. However, the most poignant moment is at the funeral of the staff and cliental who perished. Louise recognises the photograph of the hotel staff member (now dead) who helped her.
Director Nicolas Saada, instead of staging shootouts, focuses on Louise’s experience while highlighting the chaos outside the hotel and the parents’ efforts to come back to save their daughter.
Taj Mahal belongs to Stacy Martin who delivers a compelling performance as an 18 year old who has to grow up suddenly.
Gina McKee and Louis-Do de Lencquesaing battle against a bland script to endeavour to bring their characters to life and occasionally succeed.
Taj Mahal is an interesting retelling of an historical event, but only tells one side of the story. I would have liked to have heard more of the Indian victims who also suffered in this tragedy.
Reviewed by Barry Hill
Rating out of 10: 6