Published on October 17th, 2007 | by Chris0
Guns at Batasi (1964)
Good war movies don't necessarily have to develop out of a major war. Sometimes all it takes is a little political maneuver to provide the catalyst, even if its purely fictional. Guns at Batasi gives us a glimpse into the collapse of the worldwide British Empire, as control is handed over, somewhat awkwardly, from the British to the local government of an unnamed African nation.
Actually the movie is based on the 1962 novel, The Siege of Battersea, by Robert (or is it John?) Hollis (or Holles? Wikipedia and Amazon conflict here!)
Regardless, the story mainly follows a group of British sergeants, who have been trapped by chance in their mess hall during the messy takeover of the camp by an overzealous Lieutenant Boniface (Errol John). Meanwhile they're hosting a member of parliament (Flora Robson) while the former camp CO (Jack Hawkins) is away.
They've got to hold their ground in the most English of ways against this new tyrant, and the men have to deal with their "by the book" Sgt. Major Lauderdale (Richard Attenborough), and a rogue Private Wilkes (John Leyton) and his wayward companion and interest, the UN secretary Ms. Wise (Mia Farrow).
In the process of harboring the interim camp commander, Capt. Abraham (Earl Cameron) they're given an ultimatum, deliver the Capt. to be "tried" for treason or face destruction. They choose to fight back, and do so successfully.
Unfortunately for Lauderdale his actions bring shame to his career and his family tradition, and himself, as he's forced to leave the country immediately or face the government for his "crimes."
Ultimately its a sobering look into the politics and helplessness of situations like this. Really I can't describe any more than that. It may sound like a boring exercise, but really it works quite well. There really isn't a lot of military action to speak of, except for the very end, but the tension and chemistry between all the characters, along with the superb acting and writing really make for an excellent film. After all that's more of what this is about, the plight of the trapped sergeants and their company. The rest of it is window dressing.
Guns at Batasi might on the surface seem like just another ho-hum British war movie (believe me I've seen a few of 'em) but I recommend checking it out, you'll probably be as surprised as I was.
Guns At Batasi '64
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Two-time Oscar® winner Richard Attenborough (1982 Best Director and Best Picture, Ghandi) stars as a dedicated British soldier caught in the midst of a revolution in Africa in this compelling war drama...
DVD InformationBinding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Manufacturer: 20th Century Fox
Original Release Date:
- Richard Attenborough
- Jack Hawkins
- Flora Robson
- John Leyton
- Mia Farrow
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Africa and the British army,
This review is from: Guns At Batasi '64 (DVD)For those with (a) a love of Africa (this is my tenth year of living, now in my third African country) and (b) the enriching experience of the British army (my teenage years), this is a film to watch, often. Why? Two reasons I suppose. First is the riveting performance of Richard Attenborough as the regimental sergeant major (RSM). He captured the very essence of discipline, "spit-and-polish" and the inflexible tradition that saved his comrades and guests, trapped in the sergeants' mess, from being captured by the perpetrators of a political coup. His performance was 'so true to life' because my own squadron sergeant major (SSM), way back when the British were being kicked out of Aden, was exactly the same; lots of "bull" but lots of care as well! Secondly, it captured the 'down-side' of those solid characteristics; an inability to understand the political nuances in such a process. The performances from a stalwart British (and at least, one Australian) cast were... Read more
A toast to the Queen!,
This review is from: Guns At Batasi '64 (DVD)
The movie is excellent, plain and simple.
It has/had a pointed story line for our day, even though it dates back to 1964. The plot was easy to digest and moved along at a very good pace. The actors were good, except for Attenborough - HE WAS FANTASTIC!!! He hit the role of a British RSM right on the button.
But then again, he always was fantastic.... in all of his movies. Look at his acting in "Flight Of The Phoenix" - outstanding role playing from one end of the character spectrum to the other. Man, he was good!
I have been waiting for years to get this movie. I dropped hints time after time to the family for this as a present for my birthday or Father's day with no joy. Oh well, the wait was more than with it.
One of the best,
This review is from: Guns At Batasi '64 (DVD)
Not a grotesque and violent type of war film, Sir Richard Attenborough nails it as the tough-but-fair British Army Regimental Sergeant Major. How he got it so right is beyond me. Set in 1960's Africa, a mostly African (infantry or artillery) unit commanded and mostly staffed by British regular-Army career chaps; has its loyalties split by sudden political unrest. Inspired in part by the mouthy left-wing members of the UK parliament, one of whom has to seek shelter from in the apolitical Sergeant's Mess, summary justice is sought for "crimes against the new government" by an African former junior officer. Doing their duty to protect their charges from disproportionate action, a tight stand-off follows. See Mia Farrow in her first role and top-notch British and Australian actors playing the parts of Senior NCO's about to finish up their careers only to be caught up in a high-risk situation.
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Summary: Guns at Batasi might on the surface seem like just another ho-hum British war movie (believe me I've seen a few of 'em) but I recommend checking it out, you'll probably be as surprised as I was.