on January 30, 2014
At the heart of Justin Chadwick's film lies a wondrous central performance by Idris Elba. Although facially unlike Nelson Mandela, he captures the great man's mannerisms and speech-patterns with uncanny accuracy. Throughout his long life, depicted in MANDELA from his humble beginnings as a lawyer to his final accession to the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa in the mid-1990s, he comes across as a devoted family man, who is nonetheless devoted to the nationalist cause. When faced with a choice between domesticity and politics, he inevitably chooses the latter option. This might not necessarily be the best for him, but it is something that he believes he must do for the cause of the African National Congress. Although not by nature a violent man, Elba's Mandela is nonetheless pragmatic; as the Sixties wear on, he understands that violence is necessary in order to advance the cause of African equality in the apartheid regime. While this performance stands out in the film, the handling of post-1945 South African history is superficially handled. We are not told why the apartheid regime came into being in the late Forties; nor does the film explain how and why it fundamentally differed from the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. For the first half-hour, the film adopts a comic-strip approach to history; a series of apparently disparate sequences follow one another with little concern for historical coherence. It is only when Mandela is sent to Robben Island for life imprisonment that the structure becomes more comprehensible. When Mandela is released from prison, the film once again fails to provide explanations for the sudden outbreak of violence in the townships following his release, when it seemed that African was fighting African as well as the white minority. Nor does the film acknowledge the contribution made by other members of the ANC (African National Congress) - for example, Oliver Tambo. Viewers expecting to learn something about South African history since 1945 will be sadly disappointed.
on December 21, 2013
The film covers from the time Mandela (Idris Elba) was a child entering manhood to his election. It touches on problems in his personal life, including infidelity. It touches on tire necklaces. It ignores much of the pressure brought on by the international community.
I liked the acting. At 2 1/2 hours, the film weighs on you as you watch it. Mandela in prison struggling to get long pants while international boycotts go unmentioned. Granted this was not a documentary about the movement, but a bio of Mandela. Still I felt his significance on the world front was diminished. From a human point of view, I liked the film "Winnie Mandela" with Jennifer Hudson better than this one.
The theme, You alone are small, your people are mighty, was mentioned a couple of times, but the film didn't make any great lengths to demonstrate it. A better theme would have been one of forgiveness, something mentioned in the film. Mandela's involvement in the 1995 Rugby World Cup I think would have made a better ending, driving home the point of unity and forgiveness.
Parental Guide: No sex, people undressing as if to have sex. No nudity, prison men in underwear. Maybe an F-bomb of two, hard to tell with accents. 3 1/2 stars
on April 11, 2015
Ah, Mandela. I started his book several years ago, but just got so overwhelmed by names and minute details, I never finished the book. A book club member chose this as their selection, so I decided to get the audio version, and enjoyed that more, but still didn't complete it. Thank you for the movie. That really helped. Was able to fill in the parts that for me were missing from the internet. The movie is well acted and I enjoyed it. My partner is still listening to the audio and he likes it very much and said it improved as it went on. A very intriguing life, a wonderful person who really stayed true to his values and had the courage and strength to share his story with the world. I appreciate Mandela's need to give everyone their due credit, and perhaps it was because the names are unfamiliar that at times it was hard to keep up. The movie was great and a true gift to someone like me.
on December 27, 2013
History will remember the late, great Nelson Mandela as one of the world's most important leaders. His devotion to South Africa and to the freedom of his people is a unparalleled, putting him in the company of immortal human rights icons, like Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Gandi, and Malcolm X. Mandela spent nearly half of his life incarcerated as a unique living martyr – and although he was out of sight, he was never out of mind. Looking back at the life of Mandela, he is an inspiration for all of use, proving that no matter how difficult something becomes, if you give yourself to a cause and demand change, you will reap the rewards. And, also like history's greatest figures, Nelson Mandela will likely see his immortality recognized many times over on the big screen – the first of which is Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
Director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl, The First Grader) helms this Nelson Mandela biopic, starring Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela. When the film begins, we see shades of Mandela entering adulthood, eventually moving quickly into his days as a lawyer. It doesn't take long for this film to set a disturbing tone of racial inequality in the troubled county of South Africa. Before focusing on his prominent role in fighting apartheid (forced racial segregation), the film turns its attention to his first marriage – which is slowly deteriorates due to his prolonged absence and infidelity.
After his first wife leaves him, Mandela turns his sights to protests and speaking to supporters of the freedom fighter cause. At the same time, he meets Winnie Madikizela (Naomie Harris), whom he quickly falls for, marries, and incorporates in their battle for freedom. With his people behind him, Mandela is now a polarizing figure that's hunted for allegedly being behind a violent revolution with the intent to overthrow the nation. He, and those close to him, are eventually apprehended and given life imprisonment – but if you think that would be enough to deter a revolution, you're wrong. Even behind bars, Nelson Mandela finds ways to inspire his closest friends and a country desperate for change.
Biopics can be a bear to tackle, especially when they're based squally on the majority of one man's life. Nelson Mandela accomplished more in his life than you could ever hope to put into a roughly 2 hour film. With that being said, Long Walk to Freedom, based on the autobiography of the same name written by Nelson Mandela, chronicles the most important aspects of his life – at lest the important moments regarding peace for South Africa. And, if you even vaguely recall the history of South Africa, then you know it's a dark, desperate time. Keeping with that idea, this film does nothing to shy away from the endless amount of violence that took place. One moment in particular is highlighted – that being the disturbing and pivotal moment in 1960 when South African police officers opened fire on unarmed protesters.
There are several crucial, moving events that take place over the course of this film – but as you might expect, many of them have a tendency to feel rushed. Everything moves at a relatively quick pace, but the one thing that makes it such a joy to witness is the acting work of Idris Elba. It's hard to imagine the pressures of taking on such a monumental figure, but Elba does so with such awe-inspiring grace. No, there's nothing about Elba that resembles Nelson Mandela, but Elba's attempt to reenact his voice is both noteworthy and impressive. Elba's portrayal is not only appealing and engaging, but one would like to think that even Nelson Mandela would have been proud of this performance.
This film is one dominated by mostly two figures, one of which is Nelson Mandela and the other being his wife, Winnie – played splendidly by Naomie Harris. While Mandela is a peaceful man that resists the urge to turn to violence, his wife appears to be far more vengeful. You could easily call this couple, who spend far more time apart than together, two different sides of the same coin. One is patient and picks his spots to act, while the other is full of rage and actively involved in the belief to fight – not just figuratively, but physically. Harris adds anger to a film that is surprisingly calm, all be it melancholy and hopelessly resilient.
Overall, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is your average biopic that bites off quite a bit of information and tries to incorporate it in a restricted amount of time. However, while it does seem chopping and off-key at times, it doesn't hinder the quality of the film. There's no shortage of drama to be found in Mandela's life story, but much of it – like his children, marriage, and worldwide diplomacy as the eventual President of South Africa, are overlooked to tell a more concise story about the country's struggles for freedom. Idris Elba and Naomie Harris both give quality performances, which greatly improve this film, and if nothing else, Long Walk to Freedom tells a tremendous story that will serve as a satisfactory vehicle for information about one of the greatest leaders in modern history. This film should be viewed by any and all that have an interest in world history or the beloved Nelson Mandela.