Viceroy’s House (Film Review) – A Well-Told Story

Viceroy’s House is a historical drama directed by Gurinder Chadha and stars Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Huma Qureshi, and Michael Gambon. The film is set in 1947 during the Partition of India and the primary focus of the film is on Lord Mountbatten (Bonneville). Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, is tasked with overseeing the transition of British India to independence. However, mounting religious conflict within India attempts to derail this transition as well as a blossoming romance between Jeet (Dayal), a Hindu manservant, and Alia (Qureshi), a Muslim assistant.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Viceroy’s House

The sole reason why I was interested in Viceroy’s House is due to the subject matter. Without a doubt, the Indian Independence Movement and the Partition of India are fascinating historical events that I have always had a keen interest in. In fact, one of the modules I took while studying for my degree in History was about this time period. Additionally, I find the film Gandhi to be one of the greatest bio-pics of all time. Going into this film, I was expecting to gain a new perspective about the Partition of India.

Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson and Neeraj Kabi in Viceroy's House

My Thoughts on Viceroy’s House

Overall, Viceroy’s House did everything it needed to do for me. It is a good film and the thing that impressed me most was that Chadha’s viewpoint about the Partition of India is put across very well. Certainly, the film is made for an audience who will have little to no knowledge about the Partition of India which means that there is a lot of exposition. Nevertheless, Viceroy’s House is never boring, simply because the exposition is about such an interesting event in history and the viewpoint put across by Chadha is intriguing.

Chadha’s film is one which portrays Lord Mountbatten as a powerless pawn within an imperial game in which Winston Churchill was the puppet-master. The film suggests that the Partition of India was planned by Churchill with the creation of Pakistan providing safety from the Soviet Union and safeguarding the UK’s oil interests. It is interesting to view the Partition of India in this light and I commend Chadha for telling this viewpoint in an uncomplicated way.

There are other qualities in Viceroy’s House that I admire. The score, composed by A. R. Rahman, is brilliant, the humour in the film is good and I thought the love story between Jeet and Alia was decent too. Additionally, the themes of the film such as division and religion were very profound, especially as it parallels to what is happening in the world today.

Manish Dayal and Huma Qureshi in Viceroy's House

My Love for Gandhi Colours My Opinion of Viceroy’s House

The performances in Viceroy’s House are fine. No one gives a great performance in the film but all of the cast are dependable and it is a solid ensemble performance. The one thing I did struggle to do was embrace the actors who played Jinnah, Nehru and Gandhi. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t bad and they certainly weren’t miscast. However, I have such a deep connection to the actors who played these iconic figures in Gandhi that I struggled to buy these new actors as these characters.

Still, this did not ruin my experience of watching Viceroy’s House. If you are looking for a cinematic introduction to learn about the history of the Indian Independence Movement and the Partition of India, I would recommend Gandhi over Viceroy’s House. However, once you watch Viceroy’s House, I doubt you will be disappointed as there are various elements of this film which you can appreciate.

Hacksaw Ridge (Film Review) – A Brutal Depiction of War

Hacksaw Ridge is a biographical war drama directed by Mel Gibson and stars Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving and Vince Vaughn in supporting roles and Andrew Garfield in the lead role. The story of this film is set during World War II (WW2) and focuses on Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), an American combat medic who refused to carry or use a firearm or weapons of any kind. He eventually become the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Hacksaw Ridge

I have been looking forward to Hacksaw Ridge for a while due to the fact that it has received a lot of buzz since it was released in the United States last November. Additionally, the cast is extremely talented and the film has garnered a few Oscar nominations including Best Actor for Andrew Garfield, Best Picture and Best Director for Mel Gibson which itself was controversial. Certainly, Mel Gibson has a very chequered past and the criticism he received for his past actions was deserved.

Nevertheless, despite what you may think of Mel Gibson as a person, you cannot deny that he is an extremely talented director and actor. Indeed, he was the man responsible for creating my favourite film of all time; Braveheart. My love for that film meant that Hacksaw Ridge immediately became one of my most anticipated films during this awards season. If Gibson recaptured any of the magic of Braveheart, then I was in store for a great film.

Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn on the set of Hacksaw Ridge

My Thoughts on Hacksaw Ridge

To my delight, Hacksaw Ridge met my expectations. Truly, the actions scenes in Hacksaw Ridge depict conflict during WW2 in such a raw and savage way that it evoked my experience of watching Saving Private Ryan for the first time. In fact, I would argue that this is the best war film made since Saving Private Ryan.

A big reason why this is the case is down to the way in which Gibson structured this film. The film can be split into two parts. The first half of Hacksaw Ridge is essentially set-up for Doss’ actions in the Battle of Okinawa in the second half of the film. This structure allows us to get emotionally attached to the characters and understand why Garfield’s character has the philosophy that he has. As a result, we have a lot of pay-off in the action-packed second half of the film which is tense, uncompromising and emotional.

Indeed, the man sitting next to my right was having a visceral reaction to what was happening on the screen in the second half of the film. This is a credit to Mel Gibson who did a fantastic job in directing Hacksaw Ridge and also bringing out great performances from the cast. Certainly, Andrew Garfield is fantastic in the lead role and the supporting cast also elevated the quality of the film.

Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss in Hacksaw Ridge

The Score in Hacksaw Ridge

Another aspect of Hacksaw Ridge which I thought was really good but is seemingly underrated is the score, orchestrated by Rupert Gregson-Williams. For me, the score/soundtrack is one of the most important elements of a film. When the music in a film is good, it vastly improves its quality and makes it more memorable. The score in Hacksaw Ridge, which echoes the music in films such as Kingdom of Heaven and The Last Samurai, achieves this feat. In fact, I listened to the score immediately after I saw Hacksaw Ridge and it cemented my belief that this score is being overlooked as being one of the strongest aspects of the film.

In fact, Hacksaw Ridge has a lot of strong aspects which, when combined, make this a film which is worthy of the awards and nominations it has received. Fantastic directing by Mel Gibson, great acting by the cast, a memorable score along with the best depiction of war since Saving Private Ryan make Hacksaw Ridge the most well-done war film since Saving Private Ryan and something you must see as soon as possible.

Denial (Film Review) – Undeniably Powerful

Denial is a historical drama directed by Mick Jackson which stars Andrew Scott, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall and Rachel Weisz. The film is based on the true story of the ‘Irving v Penguin Books Ltd’ court case where Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) was sued for libel by Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall).

My Knowledge and Expectation of Denial

This was a film which I was not aware of until I saw a trailer for it at my local cinema around a month ago and, after seeing this trailer, I was instantly anticipating the release of Denial in the UK. One of the reasons why I was so interested in seeing Denial was because I knew nothing about this court case or the people involved and I found this to be a great opportunity to expand my knowledge about this case, especially considering the historical event which surrounded it.

Rachel Weisz in Denial

Truly, the Holocaust is an area of history which is both horrific yet fascinating to learn about whether it is through books, documentaries such as Auschwitz: The Nazis and “The Final Solution” or films such as Schindler’s List and Defiance. Because of this, I was eager to learn about how the Holocaust re-entered the social conscious in Britain in the 1990s and early 2000s through the ‘Irving v Penguin Books Ltd’ court case which was the central focus of Denial.

My Thoughts on Denial

In the end, Denial is a film which is both powerful and respectful in the way it handles such a delicate subject matter. Certainly, there are scenes in this film which actually made the women sitting next to me in the cinema to cry at times. There are powerful moments in the film but they were not disrespectful. Instead, they served a purpose in giving Denial emotional weight and enhancing the film in the process.

Auschwitz

Denial also has a great cast and the performances which are in this film also deserve recognition. Weisz was good in the central role of Deborah Lipstadt and Tom Wilkinson gave a solid performance as he always has in the films I have seen him in. Timothy Spall was probably the standout as he gave a very creepy and unsettling performance as David Irving.

The performances by the cast helped the film be as good as it could be although I will concede that there is little rewatchability with this film due to the slow pacing. Nevertheless, you will gain a lot from watching this film and you will feel that Denial is necessary viewing for everyone.