Classic Film Review: Gandhi (1982)

And the Oscar Goes to:

Gandhi, 1982

Directed by: Richard Attenborough

Starring: Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, John Mills, Martin Sheen, Ben Kingsley


The third Best-Picture winner of the 1980’s to be focused on the real life of one man (after Mozart in Amadeus (although told through the eyes of another) and Puyi in The Last Emperor), Gandhi follows the life of Mohandas Gandhi (Ben Kingsley, Schindler’s List) as he fought, without violence, to end the British rule and dominance of both South Africa and India. Starting with his youth (where he was kicked off first class on a train for being non-white), he campaigned in South Africa, eventually winning, and was brought back to India to do the same.

As with most of the films of the 1980’s it seems, I’ll repeat myself by stating that this film being three-hours long (it was the last major film to have the old intermissions added in) can be draining with such a subject matter, and at times it can be quite slow. That being said, this film certainly moved faster and was more entertaining than The Last Emperor. The benefit of the subject of Gandhi’s campaigning, though, keeps this film emotionally powerful even during the slower scenes. It’ funny being British and watching a film where the Brits are so obviously portrayed as the villains of the piece (and, boy, are they. One scene they open fire on a group of Indians with over 1,000 deaths).

Gandhi defied many rules to help India be an independent nation, but his major rule that he imposed on himself and his followers was the lack of violence. This produces both comedic moments and moments of admiration, considering what he was up against. But having Gandhi refuse every rule and order that the British would impose (one scene in court was particularly humorous as Gandhi refused all the sentences that they issued him), despite the public wanting to fight, was amazing to see. Another added element of comedy, even if it wasn’t necessarily intended to be, was Gandhi’s constant imprisonment. Everything he seemed to do resulted with him in prison and he accepted it all willingly.

Ben Kingsley as Gandhi is fantastic. Portraying his life from relative youth until his death at an old age, Kingsley managed all without fail. The rest of the cast were brilliant, too, including another appearance on this list by a younger Martin Sheen (who would later appear in The Departed). And the pacing of the film is also brilliant (with regards to its three hours, that is) and moves from time to time in Gandhi’s life seamlessly and when necessary, without lingering on to the point of boring its audience with matters not needed.

A very long film, but so emotionally powerful. Gandhi’s struggles are brilliantly portrayed by Kingsley and the spirit and the determination of those fighting against the Brits is beautifully captured.


Plot: * * *     Acting: * * * *     Writing: * * * *     Presentation: * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ½


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