Absorbing, if somewhat fictionalized, film depicting the war of wills between General Charles Gordon and al-Mahdi, preceding and during the siege of Khartoum. While encapsulating the politics of the Gladstone government, Robert Ardrey’s smart screenplay effectively delivers a history lesson in world politics that demonstrates the folly of empirical interests catering more to legacy than to responsible, expedient action. Wittily, the film depicts world decision makers as stiff necked popinjays playing political games of chess in which, by design, the outcome of every move will benefit no one but their continued positions of power. Enter Charles Gordon, international hero from the Chinese Boxer Rebellion (thus forever given the moniker “Chinese” Gordon), whose idiosyncratic personality is in direct opposition to the self-serving autocrats of Gladstone’s administration; a man, for all of his personal idiosyncrasies, who is an idealist believing that action should serve the greater needs of the people. Despite some hesitations by the British government (until they calculated how the move could solidify their positions politically, that is), Gordon- surprisingly -accepts the appointment of what seems like a hopeless post: the title of governor-general of the Sudan, a country that is under invasion by the Mahdist hordes, which intend to eventually spread an empire of Muslim extremism throughout the globe.
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