Film Review – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

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Title – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

Director – Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl)

Cast – Idris Elba, Naomie Harris

Plot – The story of Nelson Mandela (Elba) based on his own words, charting his life’s fight to create an equal and just nation of South Africa no matter what his own personnel costs.

“No one is born hating another person because the colour of his skin. People learn to hate. They can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart”

Review by Eddie on 25/06/2014

Of all the worlds various and in their own ways amazing true life tales there are few that could be a more daunting prospect to adapt to the big screen than that of the late great Nelson Mandela. Mandela’s life tale has enough for not only a feature length movie but an expansive mini-series and his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom has long been regarded as one of the must read true life tales due to its often larger than life overcoming’s and trials over adversities. With such a story comes great responsibility to tell it well and here in the form of Brit Justin Chadwick we have our brave filmmaker with help of actors Idris Elba as Mandela and Naomie Harris as his wife of many years Winnie and with that team we have a group that gives this tale a mighty good shake.

In the telling of Mandela’s story it’s clearly an important choice by the filmmakers where the will turn their focus to as too many story strands and the film would falter straight away. In Long Walk to Freedom Chadwick and others have chosen to largely base their attentions to Mandela’s time in incarceration on Robben Island and importantly his relationship with Winnie which includes the films focus on important parts Winnie had to play in the trials of civil rights many African’s faced not all that long ago. Focusing on this couple is a great choice by the filmmakers as Elba and Harris are on the forms of their career here in roles that in a more rounded successful film would of surely garnered some more critical acclaim.

It’s funny to think that the man once most famous for portraying The Wire’s Stringer Bell is here so successful embodying a figure that many would have strong feelings for and a man that due to such a larger than life time in the spotlight is well known the world over. From the accent through to the mannerisms of the man, Elba is just fantastic as Mandela, even a later period of the film where Elba is asked to play an aging Mandela with some quite stunning makeup work is of the highest quality. Not once does one feel they are watching an actor merely you feel as though you’re watching a snippet of Mandela’s life and this is a major success and commendation for the film. While Elba is such a strong point here Naomie Harris also is outstanding as Winnie Mandela, a woman so strong and determined she is equal to many of her male counterparts and the chemistry between Elba and Harris is of the highest order. With such a quality double act by the acting leads Chadwick’s direction does at times feel slightly pedestrian but overall it would be nit-picking regarding a film that looks often highly impressive both visually and atheistically and largely stays clear of audience manipulation.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why Mandela failed to connect to audiences across the globe or equally connect with box office numbers. There is an overall feeling that while Mandela is a very handsomely crafted and often impeccably acted tale there is an element missing from the film that could have jumped it into the next league regarding film lore but at the end of the day it offers an extremely intriguing and often touching look into the life and times of a once in a lifetime human being.

4 cut up letters out of 5

8 responses to “Film Review – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

  1. Good review Eddie. Haris and Elba are what make this movie good. Still though, it’s a very conventional biopic for somebody who deserves better.

    • It would be great to see a truly epic take on an amazing true story that is for sure mate. Not sure you could do much better than Elba did in concerns to a Mandela portrayal though.

    • Ouch Mark ha, I do understand the TV feelings, a director more prone to good films unlike Chadwick could of overcome this. I feel an extra star is added to this tale thanks to some great lead turns though, I really think Elba is an underrated performer.

  2. I do agree the acting is good, but I felt there was so much crammed in the film that it skirted over some important parts. I felt I would have been better off watching a documentary series or just read his book.

    • I would love to see a large doco on the man and his life, even someone like a Scorsese talking it. I must read Mandela’s book at some stage as I know it would be just a fascinating read.

  3. Good review Eddie, but I must admit the film didn’t quite connect with me as a whole, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Completely agree Elba and Harris were great, but maybe there was too much life to cram into one film (even a pretty long one). Mandela’s early years of violent activism perhaps deserved a film in their own right, for instance.

    • Great thoughts mate. I was just stoked to see Elba really take hold of the role, at first I was wondering if he could nail it but he convinced me. There are so many movies that could be made of the man as there already have been. His early years, imprisonment, relationship with Winnie and his release from incarceration would all be great for the big screen if done right.

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