Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a candid look into the life and mind of Nelson Mandela with nods to his failed marriages, abandoned children (no fault of his own), and the cause that he adopted and eventually championed. Idris Elba assumes the role of the legendary freedom fighter Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie Mandela is played by Naomie Harris. Both actors absolutely killed their roles and after a few minutes of Idris you begin to actually see him as Mandela and not as the actor who played Stringer Bell in HBO’s The Wire.
On the surface people will assume that Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom will be just another movie about white people being evil but outside of it being a true part of history, there are scenes that show a good dosage of evil coming from both sides. Apartheid was terrible–though some racists will tell you that things were better under it–and the film shows many brutal scenes (some real) of women and children getting chopped down by machine gun fire. The pacing is good and keeps the audience interested even with Mandela having a long stint in prison (where bio-pics such as this normally drag).
The focus never strays away from Nelson Mandela and his life but it is disappointing that we never really get to understand who the man truly was. There are scenes of him as a boy doing rituals of manhood within his tribe and there are fall outs with friends and lovers, but nothing made me feel as if I knew Mandela. Many scenes are shown of Idris staring into the camera in deep thought, and that is the extent of emotion you are given in terms of sadness. He doesn’t speak of his personal feelings to others, he doesn’t narrate the thoughts in his head, and he doesn’t act out in extreme emotion to let you know where he is coming from. This homage of a movie tends to lay it on thick in that respect as you never feel disappointed in Mandela even when he’s at his lowest.
Mandela’s life was an amazing one from what it shows and his transformation from a playboy lawyer into a hardened warrior willing to martyr himself for freedom. The story is educational in the way how it holds lessons of forgiveness, looking at the bigger picture, and actual leadership. One thing that I really appreciated about the direction were the scenes of actual footage that was clipped in to remind us that what was depicted was not just a movie script. History buffs who know more about the “walk to freedom” and Mandela will be disappointed that some of the more horrific crimes were not depicted, but Justin Chadwick gives us enough to drive the point home.
I was really impressed with the acting in this movie and the passion in which the parts were played by everyone involved. With the recent death of the real Nelson Mandela and the ripple of honor that spread across the globe for him, this homage is pretty damn good and a hell of a sendoff for a great man.