Cert: 12A Runtime: 141 mins Director: Justin Chadwick Cast: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Terry Pheto, Deon Lotz and Fana Mokoena
It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die
Nelson Mandela is one of the most important and celebrated political history, known for his imprisonment, his stand against apartheid and his commitment to peace and racial equality. A film based on his autobiography was always going to be of interest and seen as clear awards bait. But it has not succeeded at all in the big awards. So what is the plot? Born and raised in a remote South African village, the youthful Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) is not the global hero we know today. He’s a revolutionary activist whose struggle against his country’s brutal, racist apartheid regime makes him public enemy number one. Along the way, he falls for and marries social worker Winnie (Naomie Harris). In 1962, he’s convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. Mandela serves 27 years in prison, initially at the notorious Robben Island jail. Made with the full support of Nelson Mandela himself, this revelatory biopic charts the lifelong struggle for freedom that eventually saw him triumphantly elected as South Africa’s first black president.
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. This was a film that either needed to be longer, a three hour epic so many parts of Mandela’s life could be explored or been more focused on one or two events. There were parts that were just screen writing tricks then a real moments, like the fist metaphor.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.