by Ken B.
There’s a scene early in Sir Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi where for two minutes, there’s a recreation of a massive funeral procession for Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, thousands of mourners lining the streets. It’s truly brilliant to watch as this 1982 Best Picture winner begins, detailing the most notable years of an extremely influential person.
Gandhi himself, of course, is played masterfully by Ben Kingsley here. It is said his resemblance to the man who this movie is named after was so striking, some locals who were present during filming in India believed he was Gandhi’s ghost. Immersive in its technique of the early 20th century, this is full-on period piece action with excellent sweeping shots of whatever it can get.
The film begins after Gandhi, just arriving in South Africa circa 1893, where he, a lawyer, is thrown off a train for holding a first class ticket and not being white. Realizing the bias of the law, he leads a nonviolent campaign against the current stand of such policies, and this is where the story takes off in the style of all good epic-scale films, an unstoppable full-speed-ahead force. The acting is magnificent, from Kingsley, as previously mentioned, and equally strong showings from John Gielgud, Candice Bergen, Ian Charleston, and Rohini Hattangadi, among others.
This movie is 191 minutes, and I’d say 4 times out of 5 that there are few reasons for movies that run over three hours and one minute to run over three hours and one minute. Well, this is that exception. Anything shorter than 191 minutes would probably feel rushed. (Additionally, it’s worth noting this is the last widely released US film to feature an intermission. Another notable intermission film is 1996’s 242 minute Hamlet, but release was very limited).
Is there really much more to say? No, but I’ll keep going. Unlike a certain recently reviewed film (Read: Les Misérables), unnecessary extreme close ups are kept to a minimum. And unlike another recently reviewed film (Read: Alpha and Omega) this movie wasn’t a complete eyesore. The set pieces are beautiful and elaborate, and it moves in a realistic way.
It must be noted that in the first act of Gandhi, the score appears a bit melodramatic and nearly detracts from every other positive quality. Thankfully, this is amended in the second act. Of course, this is a fully functional movie, with no other real complaints really worth going on about. Keeping attention, despite the run time, was not much of a problem. I have no problems recommending it, but I can’t imagine many people that haven’t heard of it already.
Gandhi’s physical story begins and ends on the same sequence, the assassination dated January 30, 1948. There’s a scene before that which shows the Ganges river when the movie starts, and a scene right after the assassination sequence at the very end of the film, right before the end credits, of the river again, immediately following Gandhi’s cremation. It creates some sort of full circle envelope to end a unique and powerful production.