I feel almost obligated to give Gandhi the highest rating simply because it is so well revered and took home eight Academy Awards in 1982. What also makes it worthy of my high praise, however, is that unlike other epic features, this more than three-hour-long movie never lost my attention.
The plot starts with Mohandas Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) as a young lawyer traveling to South Africa where he discovers the legal disparities between the rights of “colored” Indian workers and the British occupants of the country. He leads a resistance that eventually forces the English rulers to cave and change their laws, at which point Gandhi returns to his native country.
Once back in India, Gandhi drops the suit he had been wearing and opts for the simplistic native dress of his countrymen. He is already quite famous upon arrival and quickly becomes involved in the plight of the native citizens to become a country independent from British rule. This battle marks the majority of the film as Gandhi is repeatedly jailed and released. Once the country achieves its independence, it erupts in a civil war between the Hindus and Muslims, who want to establish part of the country as Pakistan. In this battle, Gandhi is assassinated for demanding peace among the parties.
Kingsley, who was fairly unknown at the time of Gandhi, was fantastic considering he is white. The makeup was great to make his skin tone and hair color look genuine and the actor does an adequate job of affecting an Indian accent. He is surrounded by great performers, a breathtaking landscape and a compelling story. The plot starts with the assassination and then reverts to the chronological start of the story.
Gandhi, which Director Richard Attenborough had struggled to find support enough to make, justified its creation by winning the Oscars for Best Picture, director, actor, cinematography, art direction, costume design, editing and original screenplay. It was also nominated for best makeup, sound and score.
Also appearing in small roles were Martin Sheen as an American reporter, Candice Bergen as a TIME magazine reporter and photographer, and Daniel Day-Lewis in a very small and almost unrecognizable part as a boy in South Africa offended by Gandhi walking on the pavement with a white man.