Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gandhi (1982)

TOP 100 FILMS: #59

Mohandas Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) leads a nonviolent resistance movement against British colonial rule of India at the turn of the 20th century.

As true to form biopics go you'd be hard pressed to find one as captivating, detailed, historically accurate, and important as Gandhi. The dream project of Attenborough, Gandhi is a full scale film invasion, covering decades in the life of one of the most important historical figures. Attenborough's admiration for the man comes through in every fluid moment, character arc, and scene. Painstakingly detailed, Attenborough and Briley bring to life Gandhi's political and personal struggles, giving the viewer an all encompassing experience that elevates way beyond your typical biopic.

What ties it all together though is Sir Ben Kingsley. Detailed, methodical, and absorbing, Ben Kingsley becomes Gandhi. So much so that the film manages an almost documentary feel, as if you're not watching a man play Gandhi, but watching the man himself. The supporting cast, including the likes of Candice Bergen and Martin Sheen, are asked the impossible task of standing scene for scene with Kinsley, and manage to do so while playing their characters to perfection. Never feeling forced or overbearing, the characters feel authentic, and are allowed to really flow with the film instead of trying to define it.

All aspects of the film ultimately come together in a manner most filmmakers would only dream of. Of course with a run time over 3 hours you can imagine that having everything would have to perfect or this would be one boring film. Instead it's a captivating character film with moral implications far exceeding that of most films in the same category. Yet it's really in the effort that I find most of the film's real quality comes out. With a budget of only $22million, Attenborough and Briley managed to build a true to form epic film about a man whose life went well beyond what many of us could even dream of achieving.

As biopics go Gandhi may well be the measure by which most are judged. All encompassing, beautifully written and directed, with performances for a lifetime.

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