Starring: Ben Kingsley, John Geilgud, Candace Bergen, Martin Sheen
The biography of Mahatma Gandhi, a lawyer who became the leader of India's revolt against British rule to gain independence, by teaching non-violent protest.
I wish they would have shown this movie in my high school History class. Then I might have actually paid attention.... well, at least for the 2 class periods it would have taken to show this 3+ hour epic which is both entertaining and educational.
The movie starts at the end- with the mindless assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The film undoubtedly comes back to this scene at the end, but it seemed like a good way to start things off: with a murder!
From there we plunge back into the late 1800's when Gandhi was a young lawyer no more than a couple years out of law school. On a train headed toward a meeting in South Africa, he experiences his first real taste of racism when he is told “there are no colored lawyers in South Africa!” and that he needs to either move from 1st class to 3rd class, or be kicked off the train. Accustomed to the more expensive seat, Gandhi refuses to move after putting the conductor and his accuser in their place by showing his law credentials. He is promptly (and literally) thrown off the train.
Taking the matter of discrimination toward Indian immigrants in South Africa into his own hands, Gandhi holds a meeting of other Indians to burn their citizen cards to show that they are men like any other and don't need special identification. Beaten into unconsciousness for refusing to stop, Gandhi sets in motion his new life as a leader of a new rebellion for equality.
After multiple stints in jail and increasing his number of followers from a few dozen to a few thousand, Gandhi is finally able to get South America to give equal rights to the Indian people living in South Africa, and then promptly returns (for the first time in his life) to India.
After seeing the plight of the Indian people under British rule, Gandhi again stirs things up as he demands that India become a free country. The military takes matters into their own hands, killing thousands of Muslims and Hindi in India. The Indian people retaliate, much to Gandhi's disapproval, and so to set things right he fasts until all violence stops. It works.
This is not the end of the fight, however as India is still not free. Gandhi sets in motion numerous demonstrations of peaceful war including refusing certain laws that he deems unjust, marching to the Indian Ocean to make salt, and having hoards of men march and not fight back despite being beaten mercilessly.In the end, Britain agrees to pull out and creates two independent countries: India for the Hindus, and Pakistan for the Muslims. Gandhi is appalled by this separation of his people over religion (telling a fine story of a Muslim church in which the worship follower would read simultaneously from the Hindu book and Muslim book “as if it did not matter which book was read so long as God was being worshiped”), but agreed to it so as not to create civil war.
Civil war happens, though in Calcutta when Muslims and Hindus start a bloodbath amongst themselves.
Again outraged, Gandhi fasts again. This is his more famous fast that lasted weeks and almost killed him before the fighting between the two sides finally stopped.
And then, Gandhi is assassinated.
Now, before you start yelling at me for “ruining” the movie for you by giving you the entire movie in this summary, please know that all of this can be found by simply reading a History text book! Saying I ruined this movie for you now would be like saying telling you “at the end, the boat sinks into the ocean” ruins Titanic.
“Gandhi” won 8 Academy awards: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction. It deserved every one! This movie was fantastic and it's only downfall was that it was over 3 hours long (but there wasn't much besides the 5 minute intermission that could have been cut).
The acting was in a word, brilliant. Ben Kingsley made this his role for sure and it's the role most people have known him for ever since despite the 98 other roles he's had between 1966 and present day. The make-up department (who were also nominated for an Oscar but did not win) really did a great job of taking this then middle aged man into the 20-something to 70-something peace lover. And before anyone says that this movie just proves Hollywood was “white washing” movies long before Jake Gyllenhaal played a Persian, let it be known that Ben Kingsley is half Indian and that his birth name was Krishna Pandit Bhanji!
Kingsley was the shining gem of this film, but he was not by any means the only good actor involved. So many characters are introduced during the 3+ hours it took to tell this biography that it could be argued this was an ensemble piece. And all members of the cast were perfect in their roles.
The cinematography is absolutely lovely throughout the entire film. It's framing and lighting are beautiful while the camera movements are engaging and meaningful. It's really a triumph for co-DP’s Billy Williams and Ronnie Taylor.
All in all, “Gandhi” is a superb film with nothing but great things going for it. It takes a bit of time to get through, but it's 3 hours well spent!
I give “Gandhi” a 4.5 out of 5.
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