Guns at Batasi (1964) starring Richard Attenborough, Jack Hawkins, Flora Robson, John Leyton, Mia Farrow, Earl Cameron, Percy Herbert directed by John Guillermin Movie Review

Guns at Batasi (1964)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Richard Attenborough as Regimental Sgt. Major Lauderdale in Guns at Batasi (1964)

Mutiny at Batasi

With an image of John Leyton brandishing a machine gun on its cover it would be easy to mistake "Guns at Batasi" as a war movie especially when you see it stars many an actor who appeared in numerous British war movies over the years. But "Guns at Batasi" isn't a war movie but technically is about the turmoil in a country given independence from the British Empire where a band of rebels then take over. I say technically because in truth it is a movie about Richard Attenborough's performance as Sgt. Major Lauderdale, a military man all his life and who is stuck in his ways in his belief in the military way. It means it is still entertaining with a bravado performance from Attenborough as the blustering Lauderdale but it does end up hugely flawed with subplots which are frankly pointless.

Having enlisted as soon as he could Regimental Sergeant-Major Lauderdale (Richard Attenborough - The Great Escape) has spent all his life in the military and lives his life the military way. But in a changing world where countries which once belonged to the Empire getting independence he is a relic from the past and one who is mocked by officers behind his back. But when an ambitious soldier, Lieut. Boniface (Errol John) stages a coup at the base in Batasi and Lauderdale and his officers are placed under house arrest it is Lauderdale's military know how which leads to a fight back.

Mia Farrow and John Leyton in Guns at Batasi (1964)

I will say it now because there is not a synopsis which can do justice to "Guns at Batasi" because describing what goes on doesn't tell you what it is about. In fact reading the synopsis I just wrote it sounds as if "Guns at Batasi" was like some older version of "Red Dawn" where a small group fight back against an invading force. The truth is that "Guns at Batasi" should be partly about the turmoil in countries which gain independence and have to deal with rebellion as power is sort.

But in the end "Guns at Batasi" is all about Sergeant-Major Lauderdale and the fact he is a relic in a changing world, a world he is unable to deal with. And it is entertaining because we have this mixture of humour and drama as the men mock and humour Lauderdale for being such a spit and polish soldier but also respect his conviction. And that conviction shows when he refuses to take orders from Lieut. Boniface and demands he respects years of tradition such as taking off his hat in the Officer's Mess. Without going into detail the way things evolve forces Lauderdale to deal with the fact that maybe the world has changed and left him behind but it does so in a terrific manner.

As such whilst "Guns at Batasi" has a terrific cast which includes John Leyton, Jack Hawkins, Earl Cameron, Percy Herbert and Mia Farrow, although the point of her character is as pointless as the subplot she is in, this is a movie which is all about Richard Attenborough. Now to some Attenborough's portrayal of a spit and polish Sergeant-Major will be over the top and a stereotype when in truth it is an amazingly accurate portrayal of a man who has lived life devoted to the military and the Queen. And because it is a full on character the aspect of him being a relic in the changing world is made all the more clear.

What this all boils down to is that "Guns at Batasi" is a flawed movie, it has pointless subplots and doesn't do justice to covering the theme of independence. But then as a character study it is brilliant thanks to one of Richard Attenborough's greatest dispalys of acting talent.