Apr 12, 2014

Review: Jinnah (1998)

One of my favourite elder statesmen of acting, Christopher Lee stars as Muhammad Ali Jinnah who is known as the founder of Pakistan. To say that the separation of Pakistan from India is a prickly chapter in history is an understatement. Seeing these events from the point of view of Jinnah is an interesting perspective and I feel that this film does a good job at presenting events as neutrally as possible which isn't easy.

Jinnah tells the story of Muhammad Ali Jinnah's life from his younger days and onwards. The story is told while a dead Jinnah watches over his life unfolding as he is being judged by a gatekeeper of Heaven. I agree, it does sound totally ridiculous in writing and it might be easy to roll your eyes when we're introduced to this in the movie but strangely it works pretty well. The reason why is because Jinnah is a controversial figure. In these moments with the gatekeeper he answers his motivations the best he can, at times visibly struggling.

Christopher Lee plays the part with the nobility and charisma that we all know. He also shows the softer side of Jinnah in the difficult moments where he questions everything that he's doing. Also, the makeup and costume crews did a good job at turning Lee into his character.

Mahatma Gandhi plays a big part in Jinnah. Imagine, India is trying to break away from Britain while Muslims are trying to break away from India to form Pakistan. It's all a big mess. Gandhi is trying to separate from Britain but at the same time keep the English as allies. He does not however support the creation of Pakistan, believing that India should remain one united country. I can't vouch for the historical accuracy of Jinnah overall but I do feel like it presents everything pretty equally and fairly. 

However, I feel that for an epic biographical film, there are times where things seem a bit rushed. Jinnah attempts to give an overall picture of Muhammad Ali Jinnah's life but glosses over his early life. I think that given the 110 minute runtime, it would have been better to focus more on the later stages of Jinnah's life trying to form Pakistan instead of such a wide scope. In order to have done that effectively, something like 150 minutes would have been required.

Fight scene choreography is also a bit weak and I have to criticize the soundtrack. The music in Jinnah ranged from bland to weak and did nothing to make those dramatic moments more powerful. For an epic, that's definitely a disappointing aspect.

Christopher Lee has called his role as Jinnah the most important of his career. He's definitely the biggest reason why Jinnah is worth watching. Seeing the independence of India movement from Jinnah's point of view is fascinating and I feel like I learned something. I had never heard of Jinnah before and I don't think that Jinnah is a superficial look at his contributions to Pakistan.  Despite a few hiccups, Jinnah is a good film.


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