Movies Reviews

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Movie Review

By Anne Brodie Dec 24, 2013, 20:00 GMT

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom  Movie Review

A chronicle of Nelson Mandela\'s life journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Based on Nelson Mandela\'s autobiography of the same name. ...more

The tragic death of Nelson Mandela this month brings into sharp focus how uniformed many of us are about this heroic man.  He has been compared to Pope Jean Paul, to Winston Churchill, and was mourned for ten days by the people of Africa and world leaders who gathered together to remember him.  

His work towards freedom for South Africa, and indeed for all people, captured our imagination in the late sixties as leader of the civil rights movement in apartheid era Johannesburg.  After nearly a lifetime in prison, he was released and became the first democratically elected President of the country.   His story symbolized the breaking of chains, freedom and justice as blacks finally broke the cruel grip of the embedded Afrikaans political system.

Idris Elba is a formidable Mandela in Chadwick’s film of Mandela’s life, based on his autobiography.  We meet Mandela as a young boy in tribal initiation in his village, and then as he discovers his ability for leadership.  From there he has an ordinary life in the townships, marrying and abandoning his first wife before embarking on his political journey. 

Mandela led rebels determined to wrest back power from the Dutch in South Africa and used violent means like bombing municipal buildings.  Later Mandela embraced non-violence using his charisma and powers of persuasion to bring the untrusting disenfranchised on board.

Mandela’s was arrested for attempting to take over the government and served 27 years in prison, and then the international community took notice.  People around the world began to understand his desires for his country and saw him as a hero. 

The Africans government realized the world was against apartheid and oppressive white dictatorship and protests sprang up.  President De Klerk open personal and secret negotiations with him offering freedom in exchange for certain concessions.  Mandela refuses.

Elba takes on a huge burden portraying a man who is so familiar to us through archival footage and his many foreign visits.  He ages from 20 something to his nineties, from virile anger to calm wisdom without breaking a sweat.  Elba took on a lot to play this internationally beloved hero. 

He shows both sides of his nature, the leader of a violent revolution who denounces violence, a graceful, modest man who is able to engage with enemies, world leaders and ordinary people and wise enough to see through to the kernel of any situation.  Elba’s work is phenomenal.

Naomi Harris portrays Winnie Mandela, and transforms from a middle class South African to revolutionary to zealot and she’s entirely authentic.  The set of her face, the expression in her eyes, the physical carriage and movements add plenty of steam to this extreme arc. 

The film has been slimmed down considerably since it debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and moves at a pace despite its length.  It tries to do the man justice, but with the life he had, it would be impossible to distill into a couple of hours.  As a result, it takes on a bullet point style.  Mandela may have been better served as a full season television miniseries.  The soundtrack and choral music is wonderful.

35 mm bio drama Written by William Nicholson, Nelson Mandela’s biography Directed by Justin Chadwick Opens: Dec. 25 Runtime: 136 minutes MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and disturbing images, sexual content and brief strong language Country: UK | South Africa Language: English



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Idris Elba Biography - - Idris Elba Movies -

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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

A chronicle of Nelson Mandela's life journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Based on ...more

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