Jinnah (1998) | Christopher Lee gives the performance of a lifetime as Pakistan’s revered founding father
‘Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Muhammad Ali Jinnah did all three’
So wrote Stanley Wolpert in his acclaimed 1984 biography of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the man who was almost single-handedly responsible for splitting Pakistan from India. A source of much controversy throughout its making, this 1998 biopic from Pakistani-French indie film-maker Jamil Dehlavi opened to great acclaim in Pakistan but has never been available in the English-speaking world – until now.
Following his death on 11 September 1948, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Christopher Lee) awaits final judgement in the afterlife and must tell the story of his life, before his celestial minder (Shashi Kapoor). His story covers the intense political strife and bloody events that led to the formation of the Muslim nation, starting in 1947 as Lord Mountbatten (James Fox) uses his diplomatic whiles to persuade Mahatma Gandhi (Sam Dastor) and Jawaharlal Nehru (Robert Ashby) to join in his effort to stop Jinnah’s homeland campaign…
This is a lavishly mounted, intensely moving, piece of cinema. If you’re not offended by an English actor playing a Pakistani, then Lee certainly delivers one of the finest performances of his career. It’s certainly the one that he was most proud of – he even bears much countenance to the revered real-life statesman, not only in appearance, but also in some of the character traits that are explored in his inventive biopic that not only addresses Jinnah the politician, but also the man – especially his regrets in his personal relationships with his two wives and daughter, Dina. My other best acting vote goes to Maria Aitken’s fabulous turn as the manipulative Lady Edwina Mountbatten.
The Eureka Entertainment release features a 1080p HD transfer on the Blu-ray, with a progressive encode on the DVD, optional English subtitles, and original trailer.