Winner of eight Oscars in 1982 (including Best Picture - where it surprised many by beating out Spielberg's "E.T." - as well as Best Director, and Best Actor for Ben Kingsley)), director Richard Attenborough's epic, nearly three-hour journey takes viewers through the life of Gandhi, known for his pioneering of nonviolent resistance. Gandhi was nominated for Time Man of the Year in 1930 as a result of his efforts, and was the runner-up for Man of the Decade. He was also nominated for the Nobel peace prize a remarkable five times.
Attenborough's film presents a compelling retelling of Mohandas Gandhi's life and, played by Ben Kingsley (in a remarkable performance), the film is certainly a wonderful education in this important figure. The film remains straightforward in its presentation throughout much the show, choosing to let the power and spirit of Gandhi's actions (his fight for equal rights in South Africa, his stance against British colonial rule in India that eventually lead to the country's independence and his attempts to create peace between Hindus and Muslims in India) speak for itself.
While Kingsley's performance does an amazing job capturing this historic figure and the events are fascinating and certainly quite inspiring - especially for those who need a refresher course on the subject matter - the film does still have a few patches on occasion that can drag somewhat. The supporting performances (John Gielgud, John Mills and Martin Sheen are excellent, among others) are impressive as well, although Kingsley does certainly leads the picture.
The film's three hour epic does cover a good deal of ground, and the film does also boast an epic feel, with fine cinematography from Ronnie Taylor ("Star Wars", "Tommy") and Billy Williams ("On Golden Pond"), as well as remarkable production design by Stuart Craig (who most recently has done the production design work on the "Harry Potter" films.) "Gandhi" certainly does a fine job capturing the scope of the many locations across India and the UK. Although the film does seem a tad slow at times and 3 hours isn't enough to cover the life of such an important spiritual leader, "Gandhi" still is a remarkable film that still holds up - and certainly remains just as important (if not moreso) today.
VIDEO: "Gandhi" is presented by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in a lovely 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. While sharpness and detail are not entirely consistent, the presentation does look largely crisp and clear, with only a few soft moments on occasion. The elements used do look in impressive shape, with only a few minor specks encontered in handful of scenes. No edge enhancement is spotted, but a couple of light instances of artifacting were seen. Colors appeared accurately presented, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: While obviously not presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 originally, the film's new 5.1 presentation did deliver about as well as one might expect from a film of this age. The surround channels present reinforcement of the score and do a surprisingly good job providing ambience and occasional sound effects to immerse viewers in the scene. Audio quality is terrific, with clear dialogue and crisp score and sound effects.
EXTRAS: Director Richard Attenborough provides a fantastic audio commentary for the film and does a remarkable job keeping the discussion going throughout much of the running time. The director goes over locations, working with the actors, historical background, technical details, production obstacles and more. Informative, thoughtful and enjoyable, this track is certainly a must for fans. The director also provides a new intro for the film on the first disc, as well.
The special edition also includes a number of featurettes: In Search of Gandhi, Reflections on Ben, Madeleine Slade: An Englishwoman Abroad, The Funeral, Shooting an Epic In India (one of the most interesting featurettes, this takes a look at the production's experiences while filming in India and some of the issues that occured while filming there), Looking Back (an excellent retrospective featurette), Designing Gandhi (3 very short featurettes) and From the Director’s Chair (2 mini featurettes). One of the most remarkable additions here is newsreel footage that provides viewers the ability to see a piece of history and see the real Gandhi after watching the film. We also get interviews from Kingsley and Attenborough, still galleries, the trailer and a timeline. There's a lot of wonderful material here that provides a full, rich look at this Oscar-winning production.
Final Thoughts: "Gandhi" still is a remarkable film that still holds up - and certainly remains just as important (if not moreso) today. This new special edition DVD offers up an incredible array of bonus features, as well as excellent audio/video quality. Highly recommended.
The Film A-