55 Days at Peking (1963) starring Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner, David Niven, Flora Robson, John Ireland directed by Nicholas Ray, Guy Green Movie Review

55 Days at Peking (1963)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Charlton Heston in 55 Days at Peking (1963)

55 Minutes Too Long

During the 1900 Boxer Rebellion the International Compound in Peking is under attack from the Boxers who have the approval of the Dowager Empress (Flora Robson). Inside the compound are a mixed bunch including Maj. Matt Lewis, USMC (Charlton Heston) who must unite those inside to work together and try and hold off the attack of The Boxers for as long as possible in the hope support will arrive or the Boxers will stop.

Let me tackle the elephant in the room which of course is western actors playing eastern roles which when judged by today's ethics is wrong. There is no denying that but "55 Days at Peking" is a movie which is over 50 years old and to claim this movie is racist for having western actors in eastern roles is harsh because that was how things were back then even though in hindsight we now can say it was wrong. To put it into context in 50 years time I am sure there will be some new issues which highlight things we do now as being wrong.

Ava Gardner in 55 Days at Peking (1963)

I don't usually start reviews like that but it annoyed me when whilst looking for information on this movie I found several opinions which called the movie racist. But in truth the debate about the political correctness and historic issues surrounding the way movies were made is as interesting as "55 Days at Peking" gets for me as whilst a solidly made movie with an epic quality it struggled to capture and keep my attention despite featuring some impressive sets and scenes which feature a sizable cast of extras.

The trouble for me was that whilst technically there is nothing wrong with "55 Days at Peking" I found something about the casting of Charlton Heston didn't work. Maybe it was to do with him being cast in yet another big role in another epic movie which didn't work for me but I also felt like he was struggling to really draw on the compassionate side of his character to the point when he was meant to be compassionate he came across as bland.

What this all boils down to is that "55 Days at Peking" is not technically a bad movie but despite its epic nature and big cast it is quite tedious and lacks something to make it come to life.