Khartoum (1966) Movie Script

The Nile was always there.
Long before Cairo, long before
the tombs of kings...
it was the reason
for everything.
It's a little hard to grasp how
far this river's been flowing.
This is the rain
that fell on Abyssinia.
These are the waters drained
from central African lakes...
that have flowed 4,000 miles
to make Egypt green.
The Nile has its memories.
The story of Khartoum
is a recent one...
less than a century old.
That's yesterday
in this part of the world.
But however far back
you may go...
all the Nile's recollections
have several things in common.
There's always God,
for instance.
Or, if you prefer, the gods.
It seems to have been
quite impossible...
to live beside this river...
and not to have visions
of eternity.
And there's always mystery.
You never quite know.
You wind up with a few questions
that no one can answer.
One more thing.
Why is it that everything
was always so big...
outsized, larger-than-life?
Vanity? Perhaps.
Or visions.
Vanity was always mixed up
with vision.
And that's
part of this story, too.
But it's the Nile
that remains the original fact.
The Nile and, of course,
the desert.
Move up, up the Nile.
Leave Egypt behind
and the green land.
Enter the Sudan.
A million square miles
of desert and scrub.
It was here out of the vast,
hot African nowhere...
that a man of the Nile,
a man of vision...
and mystery and vanity
rose up in the 1880s...
to challenge first Egypt,
and then the world.
He called himself the Mahdi,
the Expected One...
and he gathered about him
his desert tribesmen...
and he cried out for holy war.
Egypt hired an army
of 10,000 men...
and a professional English
soldier to command them...
and sent them 1,600 miles
up the Nile to Khartoum...
and on into the desert
to destroy this man, the Mahdi.
Our history might have taken
a quite different turn...
had Colonel William Hicks not
forgotten, if he ever knew...
the Sudan's great fact...
its immensity.
The Mahdi led him on and on...
and on.
- Keep those men back!
- Right you are! Keep order!
Get those rifles
to the high ground!
you're men of the desert.
My Lord Mohammed, blessings
and peace be upon him...
commands me to speak...
for I am the Mahdi,
the Expected One...
and I am sprung from
the forehead of the family...
of my Lord Mohammed,
blessings be upon him.
My beloveds,
did I not promise thee...
a miracle would fall from heaven
from the Prophet Mohammed?
And was not this so?
We fight a holy war against
the fat and the corrupt...
and the sinful
and the unbelieving.
We fight a war to restore to a
disobedient, forgetful world...
the laws and commands
of the Prophet Mohammed...
blessings and peace
be upon him...
whose instrument on Earth I am.
Exalt ye not that men are dead,
since more must die tomorrow.
My beloveds, in a vision...
the Prophet Mohammed
has instructed me.
Let mountain and desert tremble.
Let cities shudder,
and let the fat and the rich...
and the corrupt in far places
mark this moment...
and turn in fear
of all those miracles to come!
And let none in all Islam,
from this victorious hour...
believe I am other
than the Expected One...
the true Mahdi.
it is the hour of prayer.
Explain to me, somebody, where
in heaven's name is Wolseley?
Explain to me
how a rabble of tribesmen...
armed only
with spears and swords...
can destroy a modern army?
Not a British army,
Prime Minister.
- To the last man.
- An Egyptian army.
I don't care whose army.
10,000 men...
a British officer commanding.
Why did Egypt have to hire
an Englishman?
Colonel Hicks was a fool.
Clearly. A fool.
That's not the question.
Why did he have to be English?
"Avenge Hicks."
"Uphold Britain's Honor."
Wolseley, I have the press
at my throat.
I was summoned to Scotland
to explain to Her Majesty.
Will you explain to me...
Mr. Gladstone,
Colonel Stewart...
recently attached
to military intelligence.
The colonel's just back
from Khartoum.
He will be able to explain
better than I.
Colonel Stewart, sit down.
Are these bulletins
from Khartoum true?
It's over a month's travel
from the Sudan, sir...
so, obviously, I left before
these events took place...
but I assume they're true.
I was sent to Khartoum to
assess the Egyptian capacity...
to deal with the uprising.
I assessed it as nil.
Military intelligence?
There's intelligence for you.
After the event,
they knew all about it.
My reports were delivered
to Sir Evelyn Baring...
in Cairo before the event.
I was aware of the reports.
I just didn't believe them.
- I'm Granville.
- My Lord.
The reports still don't
explain to me, however...
how a modern army
could be slaughtered...
virtually to the last man.
Colonel Hicks and his men, sir,
were fighting for wages.
The Mahdi and his men
were fighting a holy war.
Also, Hicks made
a very bad mistake.
He thought he was fighting an
ignorant savage, and he wasn't.
The Mahdi is
the most extraordinary man...
the Sudan's ever seen.
And he knows his people.
He promised them a miracle.
He had to deliver it.
Even so, Colonel Stewart,
the extent of the disaster...
The disaster, sir, has little to
do with the loss of 10,000 men.
It's their arms.
Egypt was unequal to a horde
of desert tribesmen...
when they'd scarcely a pistol
to call their own.
What does he do now...
now that they've captured
10,000 Remington rifles...
five batteries of artillery...
and very nearly five million
rounds of ammunition?
And I must add
what will become of Egypt...
if the Mahdi occupies Khartoum
and the Khartoum arsenal?
What a jolly day you'll have
with Her Majesty tomorrow.
let me make one thing clear.
I'm sending no armies
up the Nile.
You, Hartington,
your imperialist friends...
you're looking for any excuse
to move into central Africa.
We are discussing Egypt.
We have a moral responsibility
to Egypt.
A moral responsibility.
We have the Suez Canal.
Say it.
Egypt protects Suez.
We protect Egypt.
Why in heaven's name
can't Egypt protect herself?
We've just heard
from Colonel Stewart.
She's not up to it.
Colonel Stewart?
I've no doubt
he's like the rest of you.
He can see himself
leading a British army...
1,600 miles up the Nile,
flags flying, glory for all.
I beg your pardon, sir.
Before I'd accept
such a command...
I'd resign my commission.
I wouldn't spend
one British life...
to oppose the Mahdi,
not in the Sudan.
I assumed you were
for intervention.
You didn't ask my opinion, sir.
Well, I want it, by heaven,
if it agrees with mine.
Gentlemen, I shall suggest...
to Her Majesty
in Scotland tomorrow...
that we shall discharge
our obligations to Egypt...
by evacuating all
the Egyptians from Khartoum.
How, without either
a British army...
or loss of British honor?
I shall entertain suggestions
as to just how.
Chinese Gordon.
What's Gordon doing now?
He's made a contract with
the king of the Belgians...
to take over the Congo
from Mr. Stanley.
We can arrange that
with Brussels.
Send Gordon to Khartoum.
The man who led
the Chinese Emperor's armies...
to victory after victory
carrying only a cane...
send him to Khartoum.
- Without an army?
- Gordon doesn't need an army.
Yes, remember, without
a single British soldier...
he ended slavery in the Sudan.
He's a hero...
to the Sudanese...
to the English,
to the anti-slavery people...
to the churchmen.
Send him to Khartoum,
and you'll be applauded...
from Land's End to Inverness...
and Her Majesty.
you're wasting my time.
The man's a mystic.
He's an idealist...
with ideals strictly his own.
Give him an instruction,
he treats a military order...
as if it were
a birthday greeting.
Besides, I trust no man
who consults God...
before he consults me.
May I speak, sir?
In my opinion,
General Gordon would refuse.
After all,
when he went to the Sudan...
as Governor General
and put down the slave trade...
with nothing
but his own audacity...
and a few loyal lieutenants...
sir, he didn't face the Mahdi.
He didn't face a holy war...
and he didn't face
10,000 Remington rifles.
If you send him to Khartoum
on his own now...
he'll simply fail.
What a pity.
Sir, if General Gordon
accepted your proposal...
and the conditions of today,
my respect for him would end.
He'd be the vainest man alive.
Thank you, Colonel Stewart.
Now, would you leave us
to our deliberations?
My congratulations on
the excellence of your report.
Good day, sir.
I like that man.
Did I understand you correctly?
If we send Gordon to Khartoum...
Gordon, a national hero...
and he fails...
then the blame will fall on him,
not on the government?
It could happen that way.
It's the most
abominable proposal...
I have ever entertained.
the colonel had a point.
Just why would Gordon do it?
Because he's a patriot
and a man of conscience...
or perhaps
the vainest man alive.
I dislike everything about this.
Worse, I distrust it.
I know nothing
about this conversation.
But let me know in Balmoral
what Gordon says.
Her Majesty
would be so pleased.
Apologize for the secrecy,
Let's not waste time
with formalities.
Sit down, please.
I can't keep the train
for Scotland waiting forever...
or there'd be curiosity.
We need few words.
will see you tomorrow...
with a proposal
so disreputable...
that I can have nothing
to do with it publicly.
I ask you to accept it.
Because it will provide me
with political comfort.
I can conceive
of no commodity, sir...
that could interest me less.
I'm not a free agent, you know.
I leave for the Belgian Congo
within weeks.
Granville could arrange that.
the Sudan was your child.
I don't need to inform you
it's in the gravest danger.
You don't need to inform me.
Gordon, I cannot and will not...
send military forces
up the Nile...
but I admit Khartoum
cannot be left to its fate...
without some gesture.
Am I the gesture?
The whole country
knows your capacities.
You've done before alone what
an army of blunderers can't do.
What's the proposal?
That you go to the Sudan...
supervise the evacuation
of Khartoum...
do what you can to leave
peace and order behind.
- With what powers?
- None.
Egypt will give you
some ribbon or other.
And when the Mahdi
floats me down the Nile...
the government will assume
a pained expression...
and say to Her Majesty
and the churchmen...
and the anti-slavery people,
"We sent Gordon.
"We did the best we could."
That'll be the end of Gordon,
but not of Gladstone.
In a nutshell.
I must say, Mr. Gladstone,
you're hardly a bore.
You don't bore me either,
You're illogical
and insubordinate.
I know if I send you
to Khartoum...
you'll play tricks,
you'll exceed your orders...
and in the name of some
mystical necessity...
apparent only to yourself...
you'll do your ingenious best
to involve this government...
up to the hatband.
But you're
in a very poor patch...
and you have no one
to turn to but me.
Again, in a nutshell.
I'll take a chance on your
tricks. That's all I can say.
I'll see Sir Evelyn Baring
in Cairo...
brings pressure
on the Khedive...
to appoint you Governor General
of the Sudan...
but I cannot
and will not back you up.
This must be understood.
No British troops
will come up the Nile.
I will not assume a British
obligation to police the world.
If you can help the Sudan,
your country will be grateful.
If you can't...
My country will understand.
I'll go.
You'll come back safe.
Gordon, first, last,
and above all...
you'll come back safe.
Do you hear me?
I hear you.
You'll need an aide.
I have a good man in mind.
Isn't such a choice
my prerogative?
Not in this case.
He'll be useful to you.
And to you.
Well, Gordon...
God go with you,
and I don't envy God.
Put my luggage aboard, please.
Very good, sir.
Your second-in-command, sir,
Colonel J.D.H. Stewart.
This is for you, General.
You'll find my report in here.
It'll bring you up to date.
Am I to understand
that Gladstone has cursed me...
not only with a spy,
but with a subordinate...
who thinks he knows
more than I do?
I was brought here
in chains, sir.
I don't know what to think.
Brandy and soda, sir.
B & S? It sounds as though
you'll need one.
- Thank you, sir.
- Right. Sit down.
You are Gladstone's spy,
aren't you?
Yes, sir.
Would it be indiscreet
of your commanding officer...
to inquire
as to your instructions?
Not at all, sir.
I am to report
to Mr. Gladstone...
any actions you may take
which, in my opinion...
conflict with your instructions.
I am to inform you and
the government if necessary...
of any situation
which, in my opinion...
places you in physical danger.
And if anybody in
the course of this mission...
must risk his life,
then I'm to do it, not you.
Apart from that, sir,
I'm yours to command.
Tell me what, in your opinion,
Colonel Stewart...
are the chances
of my sacking you?
If they existed, sir...
I'd be the first
to point them out to you.
Drink your brandy.
Thank you.
We seem to have sailed.
Farewell, England.
So you and I are definitely
stuck with each other.
Yes, sir.
For heaven's sake, man,
sit down.
May I ask a question?
If it's impertinent,
I withdraw it.
Why did you let them
talk you into this mission?
As is well known, I regard
myself as a religious man...
yet, I belong to no church.
I'm an able soldier,
but I abhor armies.
I could even add
that I've been introduced...
to hundreds of women,
yet I've never married.
In other words, no one's
ever talked me into anything.
Does that answer your question?
No, sir.
Then let me suggest that
my life is not an open book...
to you, to any man,
least of all to myself.
With your permission, General,
I think I need a turn on deck.
Send a telegram
as soon as we reach Calais.
Sir Evelyn Baring, Cairo.
Locate immediately
whereabouts Zobeir Pasha.
Signed, Gordon.
That's spelt Z-O-B-E-l-R.
Yes, sir.
I expected outrageous nonsense
from you, Gordon.
I expected the worst,
but Zobeir Pasha.
Even the Khedive was appalled.
I see nothing outrageous,
Sir Evelyn.
Zobeir's a Sudanese.
He used to be the most
important man down there.
He's able, wise,
still has a powerful influence.
You'd like to take Zobeir
with you to Khartoum...
to give him control
over the Sudan.
the man is a slave trader.
Was a slave trader.
My instructions
are to evacuate Khartoum...
and leave
some sort of order behind.
Well, most of the chiefs...
Ioyal to the Mahdi today
used to be loyal to Zobeir.
I think
they'd come back to him.
Sir Evelyn, I cannot go
to Khartoum without a plan.
- I insist on seeing Zobeir.
- Why would he see you?
You not only put him
out of the slave trade...
you killed his son
in the process.
I must take the chance.
One must always take chances.
Why is Towfik making us wait?
Well, Sir Evelyn,
it's been my experience...
that when you're giving
orders to sovereign princes...
you have to expect
a little humiliation.
It makes them feel better.
Humbly, Highness,
I accept this command...
as Governor General
of the Sudan...
and I swear to you
my devoted service.
Do you understand,
Gordon Pasha...
that your wages
will only be 6,000 a year?
It is all I can afford.
I'll take 2,000.
It's all I need.
What about a B & S?
God be with us.
Zobeir Pasha, you are well?
General Gordon
goes to Khartoum...
as Governor General
for the Khedive.
He pays you his compliments,
and he would speak with you.
This is my aide,
Colonel Stewart.
We come from London, Zobeir.
My government is determined
to lend Egypt no support...
in the face of the uprising
and to prevail on the Khedive...
to relinquish control
over the Sudan.
Sir Evelyn
will confirm what I say.
This is unwise.
There will be ruin...
and death, and tears,
and little else.
It is my government's policy.
I have no authority
beyond evacuating...
all Egyptians from Khartoum.
I could wish otherwise.
But you have the power
and the influence...
and the ability
to oppose the Mahdi.
Will you come with me
to Khartoum...
and accept the Sudan
from my hands?
Do I receive this offer...
from the British government,
Sir Evelyn?
No, my government renounces all
influence over Sudanese affairs.
This is a matter
between you and General Gordon.
If I give you my word that
there will be no slavery...
I regard the institution
as ended...
does my attitude
influence your government?
I understand.
My reputation.
But what would
your Christian world say...
if the slaver Zobeir
received ten million Sudanese...
from the hands
of the great Gordon Pasha?
My government
would oppose you... publicly.
I would defend you.
The general will defend me.
The great Christian hero
will defend Zobeir the slaver.
Before I receive my country
from your bloody hands...
I shall see it die.
You killed my son.
I executed him.
Do you have sons, Gordon Pasha?
Do you have sons?
You killed mine.
God forgive me, Zobeir.
But let the dead
bury their dead.
You killed my flesh!
My blood!
My suleman.
Get thee from my house, and may
ye die in the desert untended.
May vultures consume thy flesh,
sands thy blood.
Go back. Go back to London.
There's too much danger,
too little hope.
I'll report
my news to Gladstone.
I'll stand by you.
Thank you.
You said you had to have a plan.
What can you do now?
Get up the Nile to Khartoum.
Stewart, just how far into
the Sudan would you say we are?
We'll reach Berber
in an hour or so.
In your report you said
that the Mahdi's people...
wore jibbers
covered with patches.
That's correct, sir.
And his main force
is still beyond Khartoum?
Yes, sir.
Look there.
We haven't even reached Berber.
Gordon Pasha!
Ali lbrahim!
Gordon Pasha!
No, Ali. No!
Sheikh Ali lbrahim
of the Manasir.
My friend before God.
Ali, please.
I weep for joy.
We are saved! We are delivered!
- Delivered?
- Berber is surrounded.
I am cut off from my people,
except by the river.
To the east, to the south,
to the north.
Mohammed al Khalia, the villain,
he has gone over to the Mahdi...
taking all the tribes
along this shore.
We saw a band downriver.
Did they get their guns
from the Mahdi?
Since the terrible disaster
of Hicks Pasha...
it seems all have guns.
But you return,
and we are saved.
- We are delivered.
- How? I bring no army.
You will find a way,
Gordon Pasha.
You have always found a way.
My friends, we must drink coffee
and speak of the old days.
Sir, I've prepared
a telegram for London.
I request that you read it.
I have an official
to advise you
to turn back to Cairo.
The situation has changed.
Situations always change.
Sir, Berber is surrounded.
The uprising spread this far
while we traveled.
You could be caught in a trap.
Give me a camel,
I can get out of anything.
You're a responsible spy.
Send your telegram.
You're bringing these people
nothing but false hopes...
and false expectations.
There are still 13,000 Egyptians
to be got out of Khartoum.
If the government
had known that by now...
there'd be armed Mahdis tribes
on both sides of the Nile...
400 miles north of Khartoum...
They wouldn't have sent me.
Then you cannot proceed further.
If Her Majesty's government...
at this moment wants
to run out publicly...
on the Egyptians,
send your telegram.
Get them to recall me.
But you have to make
the decision. They won't.
I've made my decision,
Colonel Stewart.
But what is your decision?
General, when you left London,
your only hope was Zobeir.
So, if you have
any further plan...
beyond vague self-confidence,
you haven't confided it to me.
Was I instructed
to confide in you?
I don't recall.
Are you willing
to delude the Sudanese...
gull the Egyptians,
and compromise your country...
just to satisfy
your own vanity?
Next time I'll shoot you.
I've shot men before.
Now send your telegram.
The boat is coming!
Look at that!
Isn't that marvelous?
How exciting!
Everyone in Khartoum
must be on the coast.
Gordon Pasha!
Welcome back, Gordon Pasha.
Thank you.
It's good to be home again.
You can't see anything
from down there.
Gordon Pasha
will be with us shortly.
Sheikh Abdul Rahim.
Gordon Pasha
will be with us shortly.
Mr. Frank Power, Her Majesty's
counsel in Khartoum.
Also the "Times" correspondent.
Where is he?
Gordon Pasha
will be with us shortly.
Monsieur Herbin,
French counsel.
Gordon Pasha
will be with us shortly.
- Khaleel, B & S.
- Yes, master.
B & S.
Thank you.
Now, master,
it has been a very long time.
So you cannot expect me
to remember all things...
without confusion.
For if you had
left me this Bible...
then it would be different.
I could not have read it,
but even so...
- Khaleel.
- I'm here, master.
Khaleel, there's something
I want you to do for me.
And I shall do it, master.
Now, this great Jesus Christ,
sometime, master...
I do not understand this man.
For He announced, and He
was very clear about it...
for once He was very clear...
almost like
the great Lord Mohammed...
bless him and peace be upon him.
But I do not understand
this Jesus Christ.
For as I remember, you told me,
He announced most clearly...
as I have said...
Khaleel, there's something
I want you to do.
You have only to speak master.
Now, He say when a man
is struck upon one cheek...
he must turn the other.
Do you? No.
You don't.
I must inform you, Khaleel,
as delicately as possible...
that I am not Jesus Christ.
Wait! Will you first
find out for me...
where the Mahdi's camp
is at present?
Peace be with you.
Peace be with you.
Send a messenger
to Mohammed Ahmed...
who is called the Mahdi...
and tell him
that Gordon Pasha...
Governor General of the Sudan,
has entered his camp.
It is a lie before God!
He is not Gordon Pasha!
Abdullah! Gordon Pasha is here!
How does he appear?
The skin is pink.
The beard is only here.
It is gray.
Holy person, we saw him
yesterday in Khartoum.
It is Gordon Pasha.
How many are his soldiers?
He is alone
with one black slave.
I fear it. He makes magic.
We saw it yesterday
in the streets.
Kill him.
You're all so innocent.
Who makes the magic
that brings him...
to my camp alone
with one black slave?
or I?
Bring the great one to me.
Is it because you are
an infidel, Gordon Pasha...
that I feel myself
in the presence of evil?
I doubt it, Mohammed Ahmed,
for you are not an infidel...
and I smell evil.
I have 30,000 soldiers
in my camp.
Is it because
you are so brave...
or so foolish,
that you come here alone...
unarmed, with only
a black slave to hold your robe?
Khaleel is not a slave.
He is a free man.
He comes with me out of love.
And he does not hold my robe,
but a gift for you.
Years ago, Mohammed Ahmed...
I led the armies
of the Emperor of China...
at a time of great trial.
And when his enemies
were crushed and confounded...
and his throne was again secure,
he made me this gift.
I have brought it
from London for you.
It is most exquisite.
When the Emperor of China
ceases to be a non-believer...
and accepts me,
the Expected One...
as the true Mahdi...
then I shall be happy
to receive such a gift.
You will wait just outside.
Abria. Real abria.
I've had none in five years.
Your meeting with Zobeir Pasha
was less than happy, I believe.
Your intelligence service...
has an excellence
beyond my expectations.
How much you must regret
having killed his son.
I executed his son.
I have no regrets.
It was a necessary
object lesson...
in my campaign
against the slave trade.
And it was successful.
I brought peace to the Sudan.
But since
you have come back now...
with instructions
to evacuate Khartoum...
most happily,
the peace of the Sudan...
no longer concerns you.
What a pleasure it is
to negotiate with a man...
who knows even my instructions.
We need waste so little time
on preliminaries.
What are your instructions
concerning Khartoum?
I have been instructed
by the Prophet...
blessings and peace
be upon him...
to worship
in the Khartoum mosque.
There are those among the
Sudanese who will oppose you.
I welcome in peace
all those who worship with me.
And the others?
Mohammed Ahmed,
may I suggest...
that when first
I came to the Sudan...
its body was sick, stricken
with hunger and abused by war.
I cured it... and this land...
I'm not a loving man,
Mohammed Ahmed...
but this land became the only
thing that I've ever loved.
I cannot, under my God...
do you understand?
I cannot leave it
to the sickness...
and the misery
in which I once found it.
I respect you, Gordon Pasha.
I make no war on you.
Make no war on your own people.
I'll take the Egyptians
back to Egypt.
I'll leave the Sudan
to the Sudanese...
and be happy and contented,
but if I'm to leave Khartoum...
to sickness and misery,
to death...
The Egyptians
must remain in Khartoum.
I am a poor man of the desert.
But I am the Mahdi,
the Expected One.
On my cheek is the mole.
Between my teeth...
the space.
And so that all men may know
that I am the true Mahdi...
the Prophet Mohammed, blessings
and peace be upon him...
makes miracles.
Do you understand?
I begin to.
Gordon Pasha, do you believe
that the Prophet...
blessings be upon him,
has instructed me...
to pray only in
the mosque at Khartoum?
No. I am to pray
in the mosque at Cairo...
and at Mecca, and at Baghdad...
and in the mosque
at Constantinople.
He has commanded me to make
holy war until all of Islam...
acknowledges the purity
of his biddings...
and all the world
trembles before me.
But all Islam
must know who I am.
And believe.
Gordon Pasha,
for tasks of such greatness...
great deeds are needed.
Egypt opposes me...
and so the Egyptians
must remain in Khartoum.
For I shall take it in blood...
and the streets
will run in blood...
and the Nile will taste
of blood for a hundred miles...
and every Egyptian will die...
every child, woman, man.
Sudanese, too, who opposes
the will of my Lord Mohammed...
will die.
This is how it must be
in Khartoum.
Great and terrible thing.
Or I shall not pray
in the mosques of Cairo...
and Mecca,
and Constantinople...
nor will the world
ever tremble before me.
I had thought in my lifetime
that I had witnessed all things.
And you have.
You have described to me
how it was an object lesson...
when you slaughtered
the sons of the slavers...
and brought peace to the Sudan.
You have no regrets.
What is the difference,
Gordon Pasha?
An infidel object lesson,
or a holy miracle?
If Khartoum is sacrificed...
then all Islam
will tremble and bow...
and in peace I shall proceed...
to all the mosques
where I must pray...
and the lives of millions
will be spared.
Whisper to me, Gordon Pasha...
if they are different.
This is how it will be.
This is how it will be.
Stewart Pasha.
He's back, sir.
he has had no sleep.
You have... been to the Mahdi.
He plans to lay siege
to Khartoum...
take it by force.
To slaughter all the Egyptians
and those Sudanese
who haven't accepted him.
But there are 35,000 people
in Khartoum.
Those are his purposes,
and I believe him.
The man is sincere.
He believes utterly
in the divine necessity...
for what he's doing.
How could I have been
such a stumbling fool?
I'm a man
who will question anything...
except my own
religious convictions.
The Mahdi's no different.
There's vanity for you.
I seem to have suffered
from the illusion...
that I have a monopoly on God.
It's the failure.
There are so many things
I'm not afraid of...
but... to fail...
You haven't failed, sir.
Who else could have found out
the Mahdi's intentions?
If I'd known
about this in London...
would I have recommended
against sending an army?
How could any British government
survive a massacre like this...
without making
some attempt to forestall it?
Yes. Get off a telegram
to Cairo, immediately.
If the government
moves on this, they can...
The telegraph's been cut.
- Where?
- Below Metemmah.
- When?
- Today.
Sir, Mohammed al Khalia
attacked Berber at dawn.
Your friend
Sheikh Ali lbrahim...
escaped downriver
at 10:00 this morning...
and since then
there's been no message.
We presume the city's fallen.
If so, the Nile is closed.
The evacuation.
We must get these people...
Sir, there isn't going
to be any evacuation.
If they hold Berber,
they've closed the Nile.
Sweet Jesus.
There is no alternative.
Gladstone must send an army.
If they've closed the Nile
at Berber...
we can get messengers across
the desert as far as Debba.
The telegraph
must be working there.
Yes. They can't
have got that far.
Call your staff together,
We must check the food supplies.
We'll manage till help comes.
I've been an engineer
all my days.
If I can't fortify a city with
rivers on two sides of it...
I should be broken to the ranks.
- Go on.
- Sir.
Save Gordon.
Prime Minister, how many more
of these debates...
can we survive?
We must do something.
If Gordon can get messengers
out of Khartoum...
he can get himself out.
Prime Minister, please.
Who is the government,
Gordon or I?
I've been talking to Wolseley.
He can send a small detachment
into the Sudan.
He promises
no further than Debba.
I'll make no compromises
with this man, Granville.
I've distrusted him always,
I distrust him now.
A small detachment, for
communication purposes only.
A gesture.
We are in trouble!
Well, a small detachment.
But I will not
turn this government...
to overseas adventure.
Not for all the Gordons,
the sentimentalists...
the plots, the intrigues.
Save Gordon.
Now then, we are here.
You see, here's the city wall
right there...
with your guns
emplaced all along.
And this is the ditch
we're digging...
connecting the white Nile
to the blue Nile.
Now, when it's flooded, the city
will become an island...
and if the Mahdi
crosses the river...
and attacks from out here,
the ditch will stop any charge.
But you must have
your guns emplaced...
so that their fields
of fire overlap...
then if one gun
is knocked out...
the next will still cover
the same field.
- Do you understand?
- I understand, Gordon Pasha.
I sincerely hope so, Major.
Off you go.
I've been wondering, sir.
The Nile's aflood at the moment.
What happens when it falls
and our ditch goes dry?
That won't be till next winter.
If they haven't
sent an army by then...
we'll all be dead of old age.
I don't think the Mahdi's
waiting for that.
I just saw them putting up his
personal tents over the river.
He's moving up.
Well, I could have the ditch
flooded in a few days.
Good. I don't think
he'll attack for a while.
He'll try to tighten
the siege first, weaken us.
I want you to help me plan
a giant-sized raiding party.
I want to take it upcountry
between the rivers...
and bring back
every head of cattle...
every measure of wheat
for a hundred miles.
It might have to last us
quite a while.
Sounds like a dangerous job,
so I better do it.
It's in the orders.
Forget the orders.
Finish your ditch.
Flood it when you're ready.
let me have a little fun.
Stewart Pasha.
Gordon Pasha
is ten miles from the city...
with a great convoy
of grain and cattle.
A spy brings news the Mahdi
is attacking him at dawn.
They're out there somewhere.
We'll make a stand
and hold them...
while you take all the cattle
and grain into Khartoum.
If we divide,
they'll have to divide.
You take all the cavalry
with you...
but don't let them turn you.
You must get the convoy
into Khartoum.
- Good luck to you.
- Sir!
You, up the pace. Come on!
Now then, we can hold them here
while the convoy gets away.
But keep your men low.
Don't give them a target.
Dismount yourselves.
Get your horses down, too.
Let them charge through us.
Once they've passed us, we'll
have them against the light.
Well, good luck then.
Be quick.
Re-form and prepare to fire!
They're coming out
of the light this time.
Stand fast.
Prepare to fire.
Move forward!
Ready... charge!
They'll come at us again
from the dark now.
Take cover!
Nearly three hundred dead.
How much of the convoy
did we lose?
None. You must have brought in
all the loose grain and beef...
this side of Abyssinia.
It'll have to last us
till relief comes.
This came yesterday
via Cairo and Kitchener.
- I've read it.
- Who's Kitchener?
He's a major who's arrived
at Debba with an army.
Precisely twenty men.
"You exaggerate
the danger, sir.
"Suspicion still exists, sir...
"that you've created
a situation...
"to fit your own personal
"Leave Khartoum at once, sir.
"This is you last,
final, ultimate order."
Obey the order, General.
Go to London. Explain to them.
You'll come back with an army.
I'll come back with an army.
They wouldn't listen to me.
If they did,
they wouldn't believe me.
If they believed me,
they'd keep me in England...
if they had to lock me up
in the tower of London.
You're the one to go.
They'd believe you
if I stayed here as a hostage.
They'd believe you
because they must!
I'll give you Khaleel.
He knows the route through
the desert and the wells.
We've enough food here now
to hold out for months.
The Nile's too high
for the Mahdi to attack.
You must do it.
Yes, sir.
Let's get back.
I'll take cholera, dysentery,
sunstroke, fleas in my bed...
Arabs in my hair,
but I cannot take politicians.
I wish you well, by heaven...
but I don't envy you
what you're up against.
Your man better stay with us
until you get back.
Colonel Stewart, sir.
Get out of the way!
Say nothing, sir.
Your carriage is there, sir.
Clear the way, please.
Say nothing.
I wasn't prepared
for all this excitement.
The prime minister's
waiting for you.
I want you to know
before you see him...
that he missed
a vote of censure...
in the House of Commons
yesterday by only a few votes.
I want you to know also that
I'm on General Gordon's side.
You mean there's hope, sir?
I mean nothing of the sort.
Let's put all that aside.
There's just one thing
that matters.
Did Gordon or did he not receive
a direct order to return?
He did.
Could Gordon or could he not be
standing there in front of me?
He could.
Then, Colonel Stewart...
does your presence here
confirm or deny...
Gordon's total disobedience?
- It confirms it.
- It's blackmail!
A man... one man...
in the middle of Africa...
is blackmailing
the British government...
into a course of action...
it wouldn't otherwise
choose to take.
I don't agree, sir.
You don't agree?
Is it really blackmail
when one man...
a long way off
in a besieged desert town...
calls to you and says...
"Allow these tens of thousands
of human beings...
"to be slaughtered,
if you will.
"It's your decision.
But allow me the privilege...
"of being slaughtered
with them"?
You see, sir, if Khartoum
is allowed to die...
then Gordon will die with it.
It may be blackmail...
and if it is,
then I'm for blackmail.
Send in Lord Wolseley.
When I think how history
will record someday...
that the decisions
of an empire were made only...
by greedy businessmen,
scheming generals...
and conniving politicians...
It's up the Nile for you,
Up the Nile to save
one stubborn madman.
But let me tell you,
if you do a Billy Hicks on me...
if you take a British army
into central Africa...
and present me with
any portion of a disaster...
then don't come back.
Am I clear?
You are clear.
Colonel Stewart,
inform your General Gordon...
that a British army
will be sailing...
as quickly as possible
for Cairo.
Thank you, sir.
Get me Colonel Stewart's man,
We didn't want
to come to the palace.
This is informal,
but it's serious.
General, people are afraid.
They have a right to be.
What about this relief army?
Why the hysteria?
There's still enough food.
What we're short of isn't food.
It's hope.
Power, you're English.
You know the government...
how long they take
to make decisions.
You all know how many weeks
it is to London...
how many weeks back.
It could be another month
before we have word.
I'm an old friend,
you believe me.
I tell you, in the bazaars,
I hear things.
It isn't good.
What am I supposed to give them,
promises I can't keep?
Tell them lies
to keep up morale?
Maybe small lies. Just a few.
Little ones?
Yes, master? Good morning.
It is such a pleasant thing to...
what are you doing here?
Where is Colonel Stewart?
Yes, master, I do not know.
But as I was saying,
that little place, Debba...
by the river,
is the most boring place...
- Khaleel!
- I'm to be home.
Yes, the Major Kitchener
sends his greetings.
Most interesting man,
the Major Kitchener.
It's Stewart.
He's sailed from England...
with Wolseley and 7,000 men!
They're coming!
The British are coming!
I do not have the ingredient
here, Gordon Pasha...
but if you will come back
to the palace...
I will make you a B & S.
Squad, attention!
Stand the camels.
You... did you come here
on holiday?
You think you've come
to Egypt on leave?
Look at those buttons... filthy.
Look at this. Disgraceful.
What would Her Majesty say?
You there, stand up.
I don't say
it isn't necessary, sir...
but we've been in Egypt
for six weeks now...
and the Nile is falling.
What I feel I must point out...
is that the fall of the Nile
in Khartoum...
comes two months earlier
than here in Cairo.
And that when the Nile
has fallen sufficiently...
Khartoum will be defenseless.
Thank you, Colonel Stewart.
But you know as well as I do...
that men who have not been
fully conditioned...
to the tropical climate
simply cannot fight.
They'll die... by the platoons,
by the company.
I agree, sir,
but couldn't you send ahead...
a detachment
of your best-conditioned men?
No, Stewart.
I'm sorry.
Excuse me.
Don't be too hard on Wolseley.
You haven't seen
his instructions yet.
I was there.
He's to relieve Khartoum.
Colonel, I've seen the orders.
He's to bring out Gordon.
There's no mention of Khartoum.
Wolseley knows.
He's to proceed up the Nile
as slowly as possible.
He'll move up to Wadi Halfa
shortly, yes, but he knows.
He's to give Gordon every
chance at the last minute...
to come out by his own choice.
But Gordon won't come out.
You know it.
I now know it.
I'm sure
that Wolseley knows it.
They've been friends always.
That's why I say...
don't be too hard on him.
It's the government
that's unconvinced.
I can well understand why you
haven't told me this before.
Why do you tell me now?
Because it's on the cards,
that this expedition
will be too late.
Gordon should come out.
There's no one to tell him
but you.
Didn't he say where
they're mounting them?
He does not know, Excellency.
He saw the guns arriving,
that is all.
You were Gladstone's gesture
last year.
This year, it's Wolseley.
Sir, I failed.
I thought
I'd made it clear to them...
that you'd never come out.
- I didn't.
- You probably did.
Gladstone's a gambler.
He's gambling.
No, they all think
you should come out.
So do I.
what's the absolute limit
of time we can hold out here?
I don't know.
The Mahdi's brought up the guns
he captured from Hicks.
That means he'll start
a bombardment.
- How low is the ditch?
- It's low.
And the news'll be
all over town by morning...
the steamer arrived and no army.
There'll be a panic.
Sir, you haven't got a chance.
I haven't got a choice.
If Wolseley's orders are to save
only me and not Khartoum...
I'm left with no choice.
How could I leave? Tell me.
What purpose is served
if Wolseley's too late...
and Mahdi attacks?
There are worse ways to die.
That's the essence of it,
I suppose.
Every man has a final weapon...
his life... and if he's
afraid of losing it...
he throws that weapon away.
That's what they
can't quite grasp...
that I'm not really afraid.
And that's what they must
understand, isn't it?
No one can make them
understand it except me.
You must be tired.
Meet me at the dock
tomorrow, early.
Good night.
Good night, sir.
To get her through the blockade,
we'll have to armor the rail...
set up troop guns here,
another one up forward.
We'll carry the extra fuel
behind in a couple of luggers.
I want every European
in Khartoum on this boat...
the wives, children,
counsels, too...
Frank Power and Herbin...
and every Egyptian civilian
you can stack on board.
You must get them all out.
You mean I go with them,
and you stay here?
Khartoum is my problem.
Getting these people out
is yours.
How else can I convince London
that I will not leave?
But you'll be completely alone.
It's a gesture.
Come, little lady.
We'll take you back home.
Mr. Gladstone must understand...
that I am capable
of gestures, too.
I don't ask you to be unafraid,
simply to act unafraid.
How are you going
to handle Khartoum...
when the word gets around
that we're gone?
How are you going
to handle Berber...
if Mohammed al Khalia
has heavy guns?
We sink.
We'll both take our chances.
There are several letters
in here...
appeals to Her Majesty
the Queen, the Pope in Rome...
the Sultan in Constantinople.
They're all for public display.
There's only one appeal
that matters... Wolseley.
And through Wolseley,
Perhaps now
you can convince him.
Get through.
You'll get through.
Good luck.
Gordon Pasha,
we are ready to sail.
Thank you, Hassan.
Why didn't we go, Gordon Pasha?
Why wasn't I on the boat,
Gordon Pasha?
I should've gone on the boat.
This is Metemmah.
We'll refuel.
Beyond here,
the shore is held solidly...
by Mahdi's tribesmen...
so you better go ashore
and stretch your legs.
Be your last chance.
Firewood? We have no firewood.
Well, trees.
Trees? Do you see trees?
Yes, a mile or two
from the town...
and Egyptians
hanging from them...
I need fuel.
Tear out the dock!
Come on!
This is all we have left?
This is all we have left.
Excellency, do not blame
the superintendent.
Someone presented
orders for grain...
with your forged signature
and seal.
He sold it in the town
for profit.
Find him.
He will be executed.
For how long shall we eat?
The garrison will eat
for about two weeks.
The town...
Requisition all stocks of grain
in the hands of merchants.
There is little, Gordon Pasha.
All privately-owned livestock,
donkeys, goats, camels.
We ride beneath no more
desert stars, then.
All things must end.
Take him, too.
We reach Berber
tomorrow morning.
This is the main point
of blockade...
so we'll be attacked
from both shores.
If we get through...
it'll be luck, discipline,
and surprise.
Pray for surprise.
And pray also
that Mohammed al Khalia...
has no heavy guns.
Can't we move any further from
the shore than this, Captain?
I'm sorry, Stewart Pasha.
We're already too close
to the sand bank.
Full speed.
Number one, fire!
Number two, fire!
Fire at will!
They have no heavy guns.
We'll make it.
They're coming.
Salaam Malachim.
Malachim Salaam.
The Mahdi and l... we look at
each other across the river...
we assault each other
with assurance.
Mostly the assurance
that we're still here.
I'm late. Forgive me.
Where is the army?
For whom do you speak,
Sheikh Osman?
For myself,
for the leaders of our people.
We do not come to you,
Gordon Pasha...
with cries and wails...
"Why did you not send us
down the river...
"beyond the fringe of danger?"
We are not of Egypt.
We are Sudanese.
And this is our country...
and this is our people
within these walls.
When does the army come?
Good sirs, I can only
tell you what I know.
I sent Stewart Pasha downriver
to urge all possible haste.
It has been ten days.
He should have reached
Major Kitchener in five or six.
It should not be long.
How long?
The Nile is low, Gordon Pasha.
Bellies grow empty.
Men feed on fear.
You do not have this fear
of death yourself, Excellency?
It's a luxury
I've put behind me.
You are exceptional.
Gordon Pasha, when we accepted
your protection...
for ourselves
and for our people...
the Mahdi marked our souls
for damnation.
We were not afraid.
We trusted you.
Did we choose correctly?
You could not choose otherwise.
It was against
your convictions.
We now speak of life and death,
not convictions.
Do you propose going over
to the Mahdi?
We propose nothing.
We ask, "Where is the army?"
I don't know.
I am wondering,
is there an army?
Don't call me a liar!
I beg of you...
or I shall have
to lock you up.
We are locked up now.
Sheikh Osman...
you are Khartoum's
most respected citizen.
If you leave,
the city's spirit will break.
It will surely fall.
And you will be responsible
for its massacre.
I have no choice but to stay.
I repeat...
you have us locked in.
- Gordon Pasha...
- Wait!
If you were given the choice,
you still could not do this.
You could not leave Khartoum.
When one cannot choose,
one can never know.
But you will understand,
will you not, Excellency...
that there are those
among us...
more afraid of death
than yourself.
We cannot all be exceptional.
Gordon Pasha, the police.
They have the man
who stole the grain.
Awaan, is this true?
Tomorrow morning.
Firing squad, take aim!
As Governor General
of the Sudan...
I issue the following
at dawn tomorrow...
the city gate to the south
will be opened.
It will stand open
for three hours.
All inhabitants of the city who
wish to leave...
and seek the protection
of Mohammed Ahmed...
known as the Mahdi...
will be free to do so.
No hindrance will be
placed in their way.
I can't believe it.
When did you say
the others passed through?
A month ago.
An armed steamer
called the Abbas...
passed through Metemmah
downstream a month ago...
and is since unreported.
General Gordon had placed
all of Khartoum's Europeans...
aboard the steamer...
with instructions
to run the blockade.
Colonel Stewart was in command.
Are you quite sure that
General Gordon wasn't on board?
General Gordon
remained in Khartoum.
Sir, the Nile is falling.
What he's done is to make
a public announcement, sir...
that cannot be misunderstood.
He'll never leave.
if you please.
We move instantly on Khartoum.
Only the camel corps is ready.
You, Sir Herbert,
will take command.
I will stay here
with the main force...
moving up as soon as possible.
But you will go ahead
by water to Debba...
make a formation there...
and then take the desert
crossing to Metemmah...
there to embark for Khartoum.
Kitchener knows the route
and the wells.
Move, gentlemen.
Stand your camels.
Advance in a column of sections
from the right.
Did you pack the powder tightly?
Yes, Gordon Pasha.
All right, then.
No, not too much sand
on the fuse, men.
Give it plenty of air to burn.
Now, you see, by firing this
pistol into the tinderbox...
we can set off as many fuses
as we have running into them.
Like this.
Come along.
- Call your men in.
- Right. Over here.
Good. Should be able to set off
about twenty fuses...
from each tinderbox.
I'll want at least 400 pots.
The whole approach to the city
must be mined.
Yes, Gordon Pasha.
Form battle square.
Take up action stations.
By now the Christian soldiers
are on the river.
- Attack, beloved one.
- Attack now, holy person.
There is no more time.
It is the moment.
Beloved one, give me the word.
Do I make my preparations?
Send me the one
who writes English words.
- Wonderful!
- Gentlemen, what is this?
From Major Kitchener,
a message at last!
British soldiers have crossed
the desert at Metemmah.
They approach Khartoum
on the river!
And Stewart Pasha?
He's safe, Excellency.
Their bus was delayed,
but it is safe.
But the messenger says, so
you'll know the news is true...
"Stewart Pasha still has
the ring you gave him."
Give the man money,
something to eat.
The messenger
from the Major Kitchener...
eats and says thank you.
He's very brave.
I said to the messenger,
"Is it true that...
"the Major Kitchener
has big dark eyes...
"like flies in the night?"
And he say it's true...
that his eyes
are like black daggers...
and before them,
all men tremble.
The Major Kitchener has eyes
as blue as little flowers.
The man was bragging.
He'd never seen Kitchener.
He didn't want to say so.
That's true, master.
If he was lying...
how could he know about that
ring I gave Stewart Pasha?
Anyway, if the Mahdi wanted
to send me a false message...
why would he say
the soldiers were coming?
It makes no sense, Khaleel.
That is right, master.
Tell Abdullah he may make
his preparations.
Then he must come to me.
Where did you get this?
The Mahdi asks you to come
to his tent in peace.
A faluka awaits you
at the ivory trader's dock.
I am his first Khalifa Abdullah,
and I remain here.
I am your hostage.
You will not regard it
as a discourtesy, I hope...
if I lock you in.
If I'm not back by dawn,
you'll be shot.
Welcome, Gordon Pasha.
Come in peace.
How did this come to you?
It came to you with
the greetings of your friend...
far down the river,
Sheikh Ali lbrahim...
of the Manasir people.
Sheikh Ali lbrahim
has been induced...
by my friend and great emir
Mohammed al Khalia...
to acknowledge me
as the Expected One...
the true Mahdi.
He sends you assurance...
that should you care
to proceed down the Nile...
he will offer you safe passage.
You are my guest.
Why do you invite me here now?
Because the Prophet Mohammed,
blessings be upon him...
has appeared to me
in a vision...
and instructed me to attack
Khartoum with fire and sword.
20,000 angels will proceed
my men into battle.
And terror will afflict
and subdue my enemies...
as far as Mecca and Baghdad
and Constantinople...
for all will know
what a truly great miracle...
has been done
by my Lord Mohammed.
I should prefer, Gordon Pasha,
that you leave Khartoum now.
You are not my enemy.
Why should your blood
sweeten the Nile?
What you are saying is this...
so long as I am in Khartoum
you dread to attack...
for a British army is close,
and you know it well.
A British army.
The message.
I sent the message.
There is no British army.
Your soldiers are in Egypt.
They play cards,
drink the liquor, pursue women.
Why would you send me
a false message?
It is sometimes wise,
Gordon Pasha...
to provide a man
with a few sunny hours...
of fraudulent hope
so that when night comes...
he will have a more
perfect inward vision...
of the truth
of his hopelessness.
I sent the message.
There is no British army.
You are alone.
Quite alone.
If this is true...
then what difference
can it make to you...
if one man leaves or stays?
It is important to me.
Please explain to me
the importance.
Because I am a man of mercy!
And I tell you go!
Leave in safety. Now.
You are not a man of mercy...
for your visions have not
revealed to you what mercy is...
and so why do you do this?
You are not my enemy.
But I am.
You should understand,
Mohammed Ahmed...
we are so alike, you and I.
You would welcome death,
wouldn't you...
if death could be
the servant of your life?
Wouldn't you?
I, too.
If my life has a single point,
it's this...
I've learned to be
unafraid of death...
but never to be unafraid
of failure.
If by the act
of surrendering my life...
I can bring down
the world on your head...
then it's an arrangement
I welcome.
Do you understand?
I'm sure you do.
If you,
as a servant of your God...
must use 100,000 warriors
to destroy me...
a solitary servant of my God...
then you whisper to me,
Mohammed Ahmed...
who will be remembered
from Khartoum...
your God or mine?
But Gordon Pasha,
why should you be remembered?
You are forgotten.
Is it possible
you still do not believe me?
I do not believe any infidel,
even you, Gordon Pasha...
can face a lonely death
without terror.
Is it the Englishman
whose name was Frank Power?
Is it the Frenchman
whose name was Herbin?
Is it not your own ring?
Do you leave Khartoum?
I cannot leave Khartoum...
Mohammed Ahmed...
for I, too, perform miracles...
and you shall witness one.
While I may die of your miracle,
you will surely die of mine.
Sir! The river!
Here we are.
All right, then, gentlemen.
Get back!
Fire one!
Well, Khaleel.
Take it away!
That is Abdullah.
I forbade it.
The relief came two days late.
Two days!
And for fifteen years,
the Sudanese paid the price...
with pestilence and famine,
the British with shame and war.
Within months after Gordon died,
the Mahdi died.
Why, we shall never know.
Gordon rests
in his beloved Sudan.
We cannot tell how long
his memory will live...
but there is this...
"A world with no room
for the Gordons...
"is a world that will
return to the sands."