141 Min | Biography – Drama – History | January 2014
IMDB Rating: 7.1
Director: Justin Chadwick
Starring: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Terry Pheto
Mandela:Long Walk to Freedom Review: A film based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography was always going to be of interest and seen as clear awards bait. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom follows a young Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) in his early days in politics, working as a lawyer in Johannesburg, 1942 and is approached by the ANC to become an achieve member of the defiance movement. During the cause of the film it follows Mandela’s relationship with Winnie Madikizela (Naomie Harris), his move into violence, his trial and imprisonment. But the 1980s South Africa becomes ungovernable the Apartheid regime are forced to open negotiations with Mandela. Mandela’s autobiography is a large book, spanning nearly 800 pages and the film attempts to tell the story of over 50 years of history in a 2 hour, 20 minute package.
This results in a bio-pic of broad brushstrokes, giving ups brief snippets of moments in Mandela’s life, giving us a glance of events instead of going into any details. This is especially the case of the early part of the film, skipping through Mandela’s early political activism, the foray into terrorism and the trial. Even the events on Robbin Island were quick and it was only when the film enters into the political negotiations when there is more of a narrative throughout and we able to feel the violent tension South Africa was going through. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom has an excellent cast with the likes of Elba and Harris and they performs were able to transcend the fact they did not look the like people they did played. They get the voices and mannerisms down as the film explores Mandela’s and Winnie’s different ideologies later on in the film. They relationship is one of the longest running themes of the films. The supporting cast were also very strong in their performances and there was no weak link in the film.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom was helmed by Justin Chadwick and written by William Nicholson. Chadwick is a very safe director and Mandela is a competently made film. His direction is solid, showing casing the period effective, with set pieces being well set up and well shot as the film goes through a lighting pace. But it was the script that was the biggest let down, with Nicholson rushing through Mandela’s life instead of letting moments have a chance to breath. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a solidly made, but safe film. There are excellent moments in the second half of the film as South Africa implodes with violence, but it is a very safe film that tries to fit too much in its running time. It is a film that can easily appeal to a middle -aged, mainstream audience.
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