WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
This biographical epic of famous pacifist Mahatma Gandhi follows him from his early years as a struggling British-trained lawyer in South Africa to eventually becoming the leader of India and freeing the country from British rule using his patented method of non-violent civil disobedience.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
This movie is beautifully filmed, well acted, and covers socially relevant ideas, but man - it's also three hours long, extremely bland, and surprisingly devoid of feeling. Somewhere in an epic biography I want to be crying, getting hyped up, or at least have some emotion stirred, but pre-dino-egg-hatching Attenborough doesn't rile me up a bit here. Also, you would think the movie would be more thought-provoking since it's mainly about the idea of using civil disobedience over violence, but it fell short for me in this arena as well. In the end, I can see two camps for this Oscar winner that beat out E.T. in 1982: there are those who will think it's a classic tribute to Gandhi and his outlook on life, and others who will consider it a sleepfest that needs to be tightened up a bit. Yes, this movie even has intermissions!
On the upside, the cinematography of the film is beautiful, with sweeping shots of Africa and India along with some really large scale sets with lots of extras. I always enjoyed seeing a huge shot of hundreds of people knowing that they were actually there instead of the modern day crowds who are obviously CGI effects. The acting is superb in this movie. I'm not a Gandhi expert, but Kingsley's performance is completely believable. Martin Sheen has played better characters, but this is perhaps Candice Bergen's best performance in a film. There's also a bunch of ancient British actors here, as it's a British production (ironically about the independence of India from the British Empire). The only other highlight is seeing Amrish Puri, otherwise known as Mola Ram from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
I was really expecting a lot more from this DVD, maybe because it has such a cool looking DVD case and was an Oscar winner. The lack of commentaries is disappointing and I would have loved to hear from Attenborough about the making of this film which was his lifelong dream. What we do get is a feature called "Ben Kingsley talks about Gandhi" which is a 20-minute camera shot of Kingsley's face as he talks about getting and preparing for the role, and mainly gushes over his experiences with some of the old British actors as well as getting into the "acting zone" with Martin Sheen during one scene. Overall, this feature seemed like a press interview.
My favorite extras were the 4 vintage BBC newsreel clips featuring the real Gandhi. It was interesting to see what he looked and acted like. I can't believe the fanfare he received by the British, and in his first "talkie" he seems very timid and reclusive (maybe because he was well into his starvation fast). The DVD also includes a "Making of Ghandi" photo montage which is fairly uninteresting. There is a "Words of Ghandi" featurette which is basically a list of his famous sayings shown with music. None of them are that mind-shattering, and most have a Yoda-like quality because the sentence structure is always twisted around. There is also a listing of films each of the crew and cast has done up until present day. They goofed up Trevor Howard's bio by putting in John Mill's picture. This epic film was not accompanied by an epic DVD by any means.
This DVD would look great on your shelf and might impress your friends, but I would be surprised if anyone watches this movie more than once. However, if you're a budding historian this is one of the few decent historical biographies out there on DVD to add to your collection.