Director: Richard Attenborough
Genre(s): Biography, Drama
Runtime: 191 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG
Gandhi was one of those movies that was met with a rapturous response upon its initial release (it won eight Oscars – including Best Picture), but has largely fallen by the wayside when the greatest motion pictures of all time are listed. Well, the British Film Institute did name it the thirty-fourth greatest British movie of the twentieth century in 1999, so it still gets some recognition. As you’ve probably guessed, this film is a biopic of Mahatma Gandhi (Ben Kingsley), the Indian independence activist who insisted that his followers use non-violent methods to throw off British rule.
This Lawrence of Arabia (1962)-esque flick feels like one of the last of the old-school historical epics. According to Wikipedia, the feature’s budget was $22 million, which feels like a tiny amount when you look at the massive spectacle that the movie has to offer. One scene used over 300,000 extras, which is a world record, according to the folks at Guinness World Records. It makes it seem like Gandhi‘s budget was endless.
The sequences with big crowds (like the funeral, the Amritsar Massacre, and the Salt March) are the reason to watch (well, those and Ben Kingsley’s masterful performance), and the scenes of indoor political intrigue just don’t capture the same feeling. As excellent as this picture is, it does largely ignore some of Gandhi’s flaws. His alleged initial racism against Blacks and his insistence that Jews commit suicide rather than violently resist the Nazis are not covered here.
Do they still make movies like Gandhi? Not really. This supersized, three-hour film is one of the best historical epics to not directly revolve around a war. Ben Kingsley disappears into the title role and the production values are exquisite. Also, how could we forget that it gave the world the Gandhi II scene from the “Weird Al” Yankovic comedy UHF (1989)? Overall, this feature is quite watchable, considering its length and scope.
My rating is 8 outta 10.