Guns at Batasi (1964)


Director: John Guillermin
Writer: Robert Holles

I had zero expectations as I had zero knowledge of this film prior to my viewing. It was homework for my Cinema and Society in Britain class, and I was impressed. It really quite blew me away. The story is of a coup d’etat taking place in a decolonizing nation in Africa. There are British officers there who are trying to handle the situation that has sprung upon them. The leader of these officers is Sgt. Maj. Lauderdale, portrayed by Richard Attenborough. And let me say that he is absolutely fantastic here (he won a BAFTA for his performance). In the beginning we see him through the eyes of his subordinates, a odler officer who is set in his ways, tells the same stories over and over, and is too strict for their liking. However, when he takes the lead when the mutiny takes place he is assertive, decisive, smart, and demanding of both his men and of the mutineers.

Now I want to talk about the camera work, because it was exceptional. It was nominated for a BAFTA, and I feel it was well deserving. The camera just seems to have a way of flowing between the characters and capturing the action so well. There are multiple shots here where I just said to myself, “Wow.” It was nothing breathtaking like scenery, but just framing, angles, lighting. Just overall great stuff here.

The whole film was tense and exciting. The men are holed up in the officer’s mess and must protect a member of parliament (a woman) and a wounded African who is loyal to England. They spring plans, crack jokes, and drink. It is a fun little film that ends the way it begins: on a bit of a bumpy road.

***1/2 – Great

1 Comment

  1. FYI, the men and women who Attenborough was protecting were holed up in the Sergeants' Mess, not the Officers' Mess (that's where the dance party with the nurses was going on).


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