Guns at Batasi

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"Outnumbered A Hundred to One - Yet Fighting Like a Thousand Heroes in a Hell Spot Called Batasi!"
  • Approved
  • 1964
  • 1 hr 43 min
  • 7.1  (1,934)

In the 1964 film Guns at Batasi, directed by John Guillermin, British troops stationed at the Batasi military base in East Africa are thrown into a tense and dangerous situation when a coup d'etat threatens to take over the government of the country. Richard Attenborough stars as Regimental Sergeant Major Lauderdale, a strict and experienced soldier who finds himself caught in the middle of the conflict. Jack Hawkins plays the commanding officer of the base, Lieutenant Colonel Deal, and Flora Robson appears as a local schoolteacher who becomes fiercely involved in the events unfolding at Batasi.

The movie opens with a peaceful scene of daily life on the base, as soldiers go about their routines and relationships between British and African personnel are shown as cordial and respectful. However, tensions start to rise when rumors of a rebellion circulate among the locals, and a group of soldiers led by a charismatic African officer, Sergeant Major Johnson (Earl Cameron), stage a revolt against the government in power. The British high commissioner (Gerald Harper) arrives at Batasi and puts Deal in charge of the situation, urging him to take decisive action to quell the rebellion before it spreads.

Lauderdale, a strict disciplinarian who maintains a strict code of conduct among the soldiers under his command, clashes with Johnson, who demands recognition of the legitimacy of his cause and his desire for revolution. The conflict between the two men symbolizes the wider cultural and political divide between Britain and Africa, as the film portrays the tensions and injustices of colonial rule within its narrative. The African characters are shown as complex and multi-dimensional, with different motivations and agendas, rather than simply as villains or caricatures.

As the rebellion intensifies, the British soldiers must face not only the armed forces of the rebels but also the hostility and suspicion of the local population who may sympathize with their cause. At the same time, the soldiers must also navigate their own divisions and conflicts, as some question the legitimacy of their mission and struggle with the morality of their actions. These internal tensions are further complicated by the presence of a group of women and children, including the teacher (Robson) and her young students, who are trapped within the base and may be in danger if the violence escalates.

Guns at Batasi is a gripping and nuanced exploration of power, violence and morality in a colonial setting. The film portrays the British soldiers as neither entirely heroic nor entirely villainous, but as human beings caught up in a complex and dangerous situation beyond their control. The cinematography by Edward Scaife is superb, capturing both the beauty of the African landscape and the horror of the violence that takes place. The performances by the cast are exceptional, with Attenborough, Hawkins and Robson all delivering nuanced and powerful portrayals of characters caught up in a crisis of conscience.

Overall, Guns at Batasi is a stunning and thought-provoking film that remains both timely and relevant in its exploration of the legacy of colonialism and the complex realities of power and violence in the modern world. It is a must-see for anyone interested in the history and politics of Africa, colonialism, or the human cost of war.

Guns at Batasi
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 43 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.1  (1,934)