Plot: What’s it about?
As he travels to South Africa within the first class section of a train, Mohandas Gandhi (Ben Kingsley) soon discovers the brand of racism that exists in the area. He has just completed his law school efforts in Britain and is by no means a lower class citizen, but simply because he is Indian, he is asked to move to third class, or be removed from the train. Of course, Gandhi refuses to agree since there was no reason for this request, but he is thrown off the train and this becomes an important moment, to be sure. Gandhi decides to battle the race issues in South Africa, but not with guns, knives, or even fists. He encourages his fellow countrymen to use non violent protests, which seem to work well and even garner some outside attention, which ensures the cause is known to the whole world, not just South Africa. Gandhi soon returns to India to start a law practice, but as soon as he arrives, the people ask for his help, as the British rule has become too much, like a tyranny of sorts. This sparks one of the most famous series of events in history, as Gandhi and his people stand up for themselves, as they try to win their freedom in the process.
This epic motion picture stormed across the screen and took home nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director. I’ve always liked Gandhi because of the richness of the material, but you can’t deny the craftsmanship either, as this is one well made movie, in all respects. As evidenced by the technical awards the film won, Gandhi was created with a lot of care and attention to detail, which are needed elements in a larger scope effort like this. I am unsure if Gandhi is considered an epic in most circles, but I think that it is, in the same sense that Lawrence of Arabia is and of course, that film is certainly an epic. The story may focus on the efforts of one man, but this one man has a massive persona, as well as a large role in his world. Ben Kingsley leads an impressive cast of performers, while Sir Richard Attenborough supplies superb direction and keeps it all pulled together. It has been a long wait for Gandhi on DVD, but it has now arrived and as such, it is very recommended, especially to fans of historical biopics.
This role won him an Oscar for Best Actor and with good reason, as Ben Kingsley is simply stunning here as Gandhi. I am always taken by Kingsley’s performance here, as he is so accurate in his persona, it’s almost eerie. Aside from some physical differences, which were covered well by the crew’s makeup staff, Kingsley is Gandhi here, without a doubt. In fact, it can be hard to still see Kingsley at times, as he is so deep within the character and of course, that is highly impressive work. I feel Kingsley more than deserved all the praise he garnered for his turn here, as he commands the screen and manages to capture the essence of his character, right down to the subtle touches. You can also see Kingsley in such films as Schindler’s List, Sneakers, Death and the Maiden, Searching for Bobby Fischer, and The Confession. The cast also includes Candice Bergman (Carnal Knowledge, The Sand Pebbles), John Gielgud (First Knight, Shine), and Edward Fox (The Day of the Jackal, The Mirror Crack’d).
Video: How does it look?
Gandhi is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a nice improvement over previous releases, but some flaws still remain, mostly due to the film’s age and such. I didn’t see much in terms of print defects, but some are present and while perhaps still clean, the print has some problems. I found this print to be a tad washed out at times, which means colors weren’t too bright and contrast is stable, but not too sharp. This is not to an extreme degree of course, but it does lessen the visual impact, beyond even the film’s intended somewhat faded appearance. It still looks good though and when stacked up against former editions, there’s no comparison. No, it isn’t perfect, but it is pretty darn good and I think fans will be pleased.
Audio: How does it sound?
I was pleased with the included Dolby Digital 5.1 surround option, but it could have been much better, I think. I’m not sure if the materials or mixers are to be blamed here, but several scenes with good potential are wasted, which is a let down. Some good subtle use is still present however and on the whole, this is a pleasant enough mix. I just wish more care was taken, to make a more immersive overall experience. The musical score sounds superb in this track however, while dialogue is rich and never buried by the other elements. This disc also includes language options in French and Spanish, as well as subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Thai, and Chinese, just in case those will be needed.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc isn’t as packed as I would have liked, but given the film’s extensive running time (190 minutes), I suppose only so much could fit on a single disc. It all starts with two animated montages, one that cycles through production photos, while the other shows us various Gandhi quotes, both very cool inclusions. A collection of four vintage newsreels can also be seen, which offer a chance to see the real Gandhi, which is always good. The main extra here is an eighteen minute featurette in which Ben Kingsley discusses his role, which is very insightful. He talks about how he prepared to play Gandhi, his thoughts on the film, and of course, some thoughts on Gandhi himself. This disc also contains some talent files, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.