Review: GANDHI (1982) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Review: GANDHI (1982)


A longtime pet project for producer and director Richard Attenborough, GANDHI is a magnificent biopic that spanned decades surrounding the ups-and-downs of the Indian-born Mohandas Gandhi (Ben Kingsley), one of the greatest leaders ever lived in the 20th century.

The movie opens with the elder and sick Gandhi being assassinated by an opposing rebel in a point blank, before transcending the viewers way back to the era where the young Gandhi is a struggling British-trained lawyer en route to South Africa for an important case. When he gets tossed off from a train, simply because of his skin color, he vows to uphold the justice that human should be treated equal no matter what.

So he seeks help from his fellow friends to join him to fight for the human rights against the British government, in which he introduces "passive resistance" -- a policy which strives to win freedom for his people without resorting to bloodshed. Soon he faces all kind of situations where he ends up getting beaten, jailed and even exiled. However, he refuses to give up whatsoever and keeps working his way up in to achieve freedom. 

After gaining little success in South Africa, he returns to his homeland at India and begins to find himself as the nation's hero. But he is sad to discover that India is suffering from poverty under British imperial rule and soon he uses the similar "passive resistance" strategy to overthrow the government in an attempt to gain independence.

Over the course of the movie, we are treated to Gandhi's victories and setbacks, as well as becoming important subjects for such popular figures including New York Times journalist Walker (Martin Sheen) and the famed Times magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White (Candice Bergen).

Clocking at a little more than three-hour long, GANDHI is hardly the kind of long-winded biopic where you will constantly end up checking your watch because Attenborough has successfully created a vivid perspective of Gandhi's rise and fall with tremendous success. Blessed with an impressive cinematography by Billy Williams and Ronnie Taylor, along with a splendidly grand production in the manner of David Lean, the movie is simply remarkable enough that it's hard to take your eyes off the screen. Attenborough himself doesn't rush to tell his story, as he carefully balanced his assured narration in his view of Gandhi's extraordinary life upon layer by layer. Gandhi's most important incidents are meticulously created as well, with notable highlights including the massive "slaughter" sequence where harmless Indian people are gunned down like dogs by the ruthless British troops; the Salt March sequence; the post-Partition riots against the Indian and the Pakistan people; the assassination sequence and the epic funeral sequence (which saw 400,000 extras taken part in this two-minute segment and most of them are actually unpaid volunteers).

GANDHI wouldn't have work its sheer brilliance if not for Ben Kingsley's impeccable performance as the titular character himself. A role once considered for a number of major talents including Alec Guinness, Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt and Dustin Hoffman, Ben Kingsley is simply an acting extraordinaire. Not only he bears the exact resemblance of the real-life figure, but he is also remarkably natural here that it's hard to think of anyone else could have pull off such extraordinary role like he does.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for most of the supporting cast here, which are sadly neglected to thankless roles. For instance, Candice Bergen's would-be important role as Margaret Bourke-White is nothing more than a one-dimensional character who just snap photos and try to look interested in writing her article about Gandhi. Apart from that, Attenborough doesn't seems to bother to dig deeper beyond from what we know about Gandhi other than an inspirational figure who shaped the history for achieving freedom in the most spiritual manner.

GANDHI was a box-office hit, and a massive triumph at the Oscars with 11 Academy Award nominations and won a total of eight statuettes including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (Ben Kingsley).

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