Sunday, June 22, 2014

Guns at Batasi

Those of you who have FXM will have another chance to catch Guns at Batasi, tomorrow morning at 8:15 AM on FXM Retro.

Made at Fox's British operations, Guns at Batasi stars Richard Attenborough as Regimental Sergeant-Major Lauderdale. He's more or less in charge of the British military base at Batasi, which is in some East African country in the years just after decolonialization began; so, it's a British base abroad now in a newly-independent country and the British are more or less training the new African soldiers. Lauderdale is a throwback to an earlier era who insists that everything be done exactly by the book. As such, he's a bit the butt of jokes from the British under his command and not exactly thrilled at the new way of doing things that decolonialization seems to be imposing on the British.

Two women come to visit the base at Batasi. One, MP Barker-Wise (Flora Robson), is scheduled to be there. She's doing an inspection for Parliament, and is one of those do-gooders who has decided sympathy for the cause of the Africans, to the point that she's quite frankly naïve in putting her faith in the African soldiers. The other one, Karen (Mia Farrow), is a UN worker who is supposed to be leaving the country, but winds up being accompanied to the base by Private Wilkes (John Leyton) because the situation at the airport in the capital city is a bit chaotic. Although the country is independent, there are people who don't like the group to whom the British handed over control. As in many other African countries, they'd be willing to take over, by force if necessary.

That force eventually winds up coming to Batasi. Or, more accurately, it's already there. Presumably among the local soldiers being trained by the British at Batasi would have been members of both factions, and the faction that's been planning the military coup in the capital is going to have to take over the base as part of that coup. As for the British, they're in a sort of ambiguous position. They're more or less being held hostage against their will, and that is certainly unacceptable to them. So it's up to Lauderdale to try to lead an operation to get them all to safety. Complicating things is the limited manpower and ammunition, as well as the fact that Barker-Wise, stupid lady that she is, is still willing to trust the new local (African) commander at the base. She just knows that they're really gentlemen at heart, and will give free passage to the wounded, even though one is the old local commander they'd execute for treason for collaborating with the old regime.

I think I've stated before that military movies are in general not one of my favorite genres. To be fair to Guns at Batasi, however, I have to say that it's a well-made movie with a tense and fairly believable storyline about how things can go really wrong in a place that's in the middle of nowhern and cut off from all information. Never having been in the military myself, I have no idea how believable the military characters are, but the Barker-Wise character certainly seems believable, which probably bodes well for the others. If you like military movies, and want somehting different from your normal Hollywood World War II stuff, then Guns at Batasi probably isn't a bad choice.

For those without FXM, Guns at Batasi did get a DVD release, although I'm not certain if it's still in print.

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