Gandhi Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ September 18, 2013
A sincere biopic about a most admirable man, and enriched by Ben Kingsley's impressive performance - even if the story is in fact more didactic than really compelling and with Gandhi not as fascinating as a character as the strength of his convictions and accomplishments.
Super Reviewer
½ June 9, 2013
Ben Kingsley is definitely one of the best actors absolutely shows in this wonderful film.
Super Reviewer
½ December 18, 2012
It's been ages since I've seen this, so my review is being dictated primarily by memory. Perhaps it's time for a rewatch?

Richard Attenborough takes the helm for this sweeping historical epic about the life of Indian political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi. It's a very reverent film, is extremely long, and covers a lot of ground, but is a very powerful and compelling tale that highlights the life and work of one of the most influential and important figures in history.

This will probably always be Sir Ben Kingsley's defining role, but that's totally fine. He disappears into the character completely, was nothing but deserving of all the awards and acclaim he got, and really brings the character to life in the best way. It's seriously one of the most convincing performances ever. Like I said, I haven't seen this in ages, so I really don't remember much, but given who makes up the rest of the cast, such as Gielgud, I'm going to go out on a limb and just assert that their performances were also probably great too.

There's also great music, wonderful production values, superb cinematography, and of course, a great message. There's many reasons to see this, and for whichever ones you pick, hopefully you'll not be disappointed.
Super Reviewer
October 27, 2012
Ben Kingley is excellent. (I still cannot forgive him for appearing in Uwe Boll's "Bloodrayne", which is shameful!) A powerful story and a definite must-see film.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
½ May 6, 2012
In my review of Chariots of Fire, I remarked that "the legacy it has left behind for British filmmaking has not been one of unmitigated benefit." By this I was not referring specifically to the career of Hugh Hudson (what there is of it), but to the films which sought all too earnestly to recapture its Oscar success. While Chariots of Fire still stands as a landmark of British filmmaking, untarnished and proud, the sands of time have gradually revealed Gandhi for what it really is: an utterly well-meaning but overly cautious biopic, which relies too much on reputation and not enough on empathy.

It would be easy to dismiss Gandhi outright on the grounds I have just laid out. Like Chariots of Fire, the film had a very good night at the Oscars, scooping eight awards from eleven nominations including the coveted Best Picture. But it doesn't take too long to realise that the film was made for all the right reasons and with the very best intentions. Richard Attenborough had been trying to make the film for almost 20 years, and had a deep affection for both Gandhi and his story.

You also can't fault the ambition of the film in terms of wanting to cover the Mahatma's life in as full a sweep as possible. The film opens with a card saying: "No man's life can be encompassed in one telling. There is no way to give each year its allotted weight, to include each event, each person who helped to shape a lifetime. What can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record and to try to find one's way to the heart of the man." Despite this welcome modesty, Attenborough is not using the need for brevity as a means to cut corners.

The film famously holds a Guinness World Record for the number of extras involved, with more than 300,000 actors being involved at some level. Shot on 200 different locations over a period of six months, showing the passage of sixty-odd, it's the kind of epic filmmaking that we just don't get any more, for better or worse. Perhaps only Gone with the Wind was more ambitious in terms of time being covered and personnel involved - and unlike Gone with the Wind, Gandhi finished on-time and on-budget.

There can also be very little doubt that Gandhi is very handsomely mounted. Both Billy Williams and Ronnie Taylor were used to projects with great visual extravagance, having collaborated with Ken Russell on Women in Love and Tommy respectively. The wide shots are beautifully lit, taking in the variety of the Indian landscape, and Attenborough's choice of colour is much more engrossing than some of Sydney Pollack's choices in Out of Africa. You get a sense throughout of someone wanting to get every detail just so before the cameras roll.

One of the reasons that Gandhi had such a long gestation period is that Attenborough struggled to find an actor capable of playing the Mahatma. Paramount Pictures, in one of the aborted attempts to make the film, refused to give him the money unless Richard Burton was cast. Ben Kingsley was chosen in part for his Indian heritage, his birth name being Krishna Pandit Bhanji and his father being Gujerati. Regardless of the film's reputation it is hard to imagine anyone else playing Gandhi; not only does he achieve a physical resemblance, but he truly serves the character, carrying himself without a hint of ego or pretence.

On the basis of what we have covered so far, Gandhi seems to be shaping up as a well-made, well-performed and well-intended film. Unfortunately, when we start to dig a little beneath the surface, and question the execution of these intentions, the film begins to come a little unstuck. It never falls completely into the territory of Out of Africa, which rapidly descended into baggy nonsense with no sense of direction. But for all your good will about either Attenborough or the real-life Mahatma, the film will leave you feeling just a little unsatisfied.

The key to Gandhi's problems lies in a comment made by Attenborough when he was recently interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live. He remarked that E.T. was a better film than Gandhi, since the latter was "a piece of narration, rather than a piece of cinema". While Steven Spielberg's film is a genuine example of visual storytelling, which works in whatever language you see it in, Attenborough's film relies on some kind of foreknowledge of the real-life figure to achieve any kind of emotional impact. When we respond to Gandhi, we are responding to the man himself, not to the way in which his story is being told to us.

A good example comes in the early stages of the film. A young Gandhi is leading a meeting of protest against the policies of General Jan Smuts, which restricted the movements of Indians in South Africa and gave the police powers to search Indian property without warrant. Kingsley gives a nervous but resourceful speech which, if the film is to believed, marks the beginnings of Satyagraha or non-violent resistance. We find ourselves drawn in by the ideas, but it feels like we are listening to an idea rather than to a person conveying it.

Like many films that are based on a true story or which tackle key events in history, Gandhi very quickly becomes didactic. As good as Kingsley is at delivering dialogue, much of his lines feel like pre-meditated motivational speeches rather than something more spontaneous and human. Even if the real-life Gandhi never said a foolish word, and was the very model of decorum in the midst of great violence, his goodness is presented so unrelentingly that there is no way for us lesser mortals to bond with him emotionally.

The film is also blatantly hagiographic in its depiction of Gandhi as little short of a saint. Not only does he come to be adored by the British public, he comes out as the unconditional good guy among the politicians who would come to rule India and Pakistan. Jawaharlal Nehru is always characterised as being slightly insincere, and Muhammad Jinnah comes out almost like a Bond villain. In complete contrast to Christopher Lee's performance in the 1998 film, Jinnah is portrayed as essentially selfish and aloof, and when Gandhi remarks that he has "co-operated with the British", it is the closest he comes in the film to spitting out poison.

The problem is not that Mahatma Gandhi was not a great man. He was, and he may well have been the most well-meaning out of this small group. The problem is that the film treats him and depicts him as someone who should be deified and worshiped, when what we want is to understand how he became this way, and the flaws to him. The film skips over Gandhi's attitudes towards class and caste, his early remarks on race and his views on the role of women, just as it declines to comment on the elitism of Nehru and Jinnah, or how their attitudes were shaped by their English educations. All the really interesting ideas and entry points for discussion at either ignored or held at arms' length, lest they tarnish or puncture the myth that Attenborough wishes to uphold.

There are only two scenes in Gandhi in which Attenborough invokes any genuine emotional response beyond admiration. The first comes on the farm, where Gandhi threatens to throw out his wife for refusing to rake the latrine. They have an argument about obedience and love, and eventually reconcile, in a scene which gives an indication of humanity and makes Kingsley's performance feel less mannered. The other is the recreation of the Amritsar Massacre, which is appropriately brutal and difficult to watch. Attenborough devotes several minutes to the catastrophic event, and while he is never gratuitous, we get the message.

The other really troubling aspect of Gandhi is its tendency to express the nobility of the Mahatma by surrounding him with well-meaning white people. Again, the problem is not the fact that the real-life Gandhi met and knew these people - it is that these people are used as ciphers to hammer home something that speaks for itself. Ian Charleston's clergyman, Martin Sheen's journalist, Candice Bergen's photographer and Geraldine James' aristocrat all bring us back to the central problem: we need to see through Gandhi's eyes and feel what he feels, rather than be told how great he was by annoying people that we couldn't care less about.

Gandhi is perhaps the best example of an admirable failure. It's not a bad film by any conceivable stretch, and no-one can deny either Kingsley's talent or the good intentions of Attenborough behind the camera. But ultimately it relies on these intentions far too much, forgetting the basics of creating character empathy in favour of a dry, skewed history lesson coupled with its fair share of guilt-tripping. In short it takes a very long time to say far too little, and something about ideas this important shouldn't leave us so cold and ambivalent.
Super Reviewer
October 9, 2011
Watching Ben Kingsley play Indian politicial and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi is a truely breathtaking and remarkable experience to say the least, but Richard Attenborough's film drags in the first half, and then finds it's voice. Looking at the film as a whole is a must, and once you've done that, it becomes clear that Richard Attenborough's Gandhi is a humbling but exhilirating, lengthy biopic.
Super Reviewer
September 24, 2011
Starring Ben Kingsley, Gandhi is an impressive film. Director Richard Attenborough who is known to craft epic pictures directs this larger than life biopic. Gandhi is one of cinema's greatest films. Kingsley is remarkable in his performance as Mahatma Gandhi and he definitely deserved that Oscar. The film recounts the beginnings of Gandhi and how he fought for Indian independence without resorting to violence. Gandhi is a terrific film and has a very strong cast that all deliver great performances. However Ben Kingsley is really the best here. He looks, and acts like Gandhi. He is Gandhi. This is a well made biopic that though not perfect, gets it right just enough to get the facts across the screen. The film is engaging and tells an important story. Attenborough's attempt at bringing Mahatma Gandhi's life to the screen pays off, and even if it's a tad flawed, the film has too many strong points to overcome the bad that it doesn't even matter. Gandhi is a masterwork of cinema. With brilliant acting, storytelling and directing, it's no surprise that Gandhi is now regarded as a cinematic milestone. Gandhi is a superb film with an engaging story. The film is a must see for cinema buffs everywhere. Kingsley's performance alone makes this films flaws forgettable and a definite must see. This is one of Richard Attenborough's greatest achievements and his vision can only be described as epic. A wonderful film.
Super Reviewer
August 17, 2011
A classic drama of one of the most influential men of all time.
Super Reviewer
July 20, 2011
Richard Attenborough's Gandhi begins with the statement; 'No man's life can be encompassed in one telling. There is no way to give each year its allotted weight, to include each event, each person who helped to shape a lifetime. What can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record and to try to find one's way to the heart of the man'.

With that in mind, this is still one of the most honest and faithful biopics of one amazing individual. The Attenborough's are a passionate bunch, I think many aspects of what was going on in India under British rule at the time was not mentioned due to the fact that this film is more about the man, rather than the world at that time. That said, it doesn't shy away from the brutality and its, or rather, Gandhi's message is still loud and clear. The world would be doing itself a favour in revisiting the story of Gandhi, especially in these climates. A wonderful film about a wonderful man.
Super Reviewer
½ November 19, 2006
Richard Attenborough's reverential biopic of Mohandas K. Gandhi that charts his progress from idealistic young lawyer fighting for civil rights in South Africa through to his assassination by a Hindu nationalist in 1948. A remarkable film about a remarkable man, it won 8 Oscars and had an epic scale rarely seen before. It shows how Gandhi was a deeply spiritual man who saw not man and woman, Hindu and Muslim or black and white; just people who all deserved the same respect; a very unusual attitude for a "holy man"...He preached non-violence and used the media in a way never seen before to shame his oppressors through the use of passive resistance, showing that it takes a lot more courage to take a beating than give one and in doing so was all but responsible for the dissolution of the British Empire. It's maybe a little too reverential, Gandhi being shown as all but a saint and we see little of his personal life but it's beautifully shot and performed and a fitting memorial to one of the greatest men to have ever lived.
Super Reviewer
December 8, 2009
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?
~Mahatma Gandhi~

Friends recommended it to me long time ago but I just thought I know enough about Gandhi till per coinciedence I caught it on TV.
The other thing about this Movie were the Actors, not only Hollywood but some great Bollywood actors came together, such as Omrish Puri, Saeed Jaffrey, oh and my fav Jalal Agha(Sholay) and many others.
What a great Movie!

Ben Kingsley`s perfomance: OUTSTANDING!
Super Reviewer
½ September 6, 2010
A fantastic film about a fantastic man. This is an excellent biographical drama, and I highly recommend it.
Super Reviewer
April 24, 2010
If Ben Kingsley was excluded from this picture, then the movie would have flopped. He brought everything that was not there, to the table with flying colours! It does become dull in a few instinces, but the execution of the film is completed very well!
Super Reviewer
May 29, 2006
As always Old Fashioned Hollywood Superb portrait of India's great political and spiritual leader comes to life in Ben Kingsley's authoritative yet sensitive performance. Director Richard Attenborough's epic-scale production re-creates Gandhi's life and times, especially his use of non-violence and hunger strikes to bring together the diverse peoples of India and unify them as a nation. The funeral sequence was filmed on January 31, 1981, 33 years to the day after Gandhi's real funeral. Approximately 300,000 extras were used in that scene, the most for any filmepic Winner of my Top Biopic Films.
Super Reviewer
½ July 6, 2009
I guess technically you could say that this is a good movie, but I've spent more entertaining hours watching my dog play with a bug. Bored the snot out of me.
Super Reviewer
July 18, 2008
Reverent drama of the lawyer who became the leader of the nonviolent resistance movement against British colonial rule in India. Ben Kingsley gives a flawless performance in the role of a lifetime. Technically stunning, exhaustively detailed biography about one of the 20th century's most important figures is indeed impressive. However, one cannot get over the fact that this sprawling, lengthy epic feels more like a history lesson than entertainment. An unknown Daniel Day-Lewis appears briefly as a South African street tough who harasses Gandhi.
Super Reviewer
March 2, 2008
Excellent film, first half is kind of slow but the movie captivates towards the end.
Super Reviewer
October 12, 2007
A really poignant look on the life of Mohandas Gandhi, with a blistering, brilliant performance from Sir Ben Kingsley.
Super Reviewer
June 3, 2007
An epic. Ben Kingsley is outstanding in this undoubtedly controversial best picture, it triumphs on subject matter alone. I really liked the cinematography, but the editing I found choppy and irritating - it's hard to keep a narrative that's so involved interesting, and to present it all in 3 hours or so, but there was so much flashing forward that it made me wonder what happened in between... which actually shows how, even if I didn't like the editing, it was effective.
Super Reviewer
September 3, 2007
This was a good learning experience because prior to this I knew next to nothing about Mr. Gandhiji. Ben Kingsley is WOWOW dazzling in this, depicting Gandhi as not just a remarkably selfless man but also as an extraordinarily human one. Mr. Gandhi, you are my shining star.
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