IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 143 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
The true story of Nelson Mandela, based on his autobiography of the same name, from a lawyer with South Africa’s first black law firm Mandela & Tambo, through his imprisonment for 27 years in 1962 and to his release and fight to become the first democratically elected President in South Africa….
It would take a cynic like me to wonder if executive producer Harvey Weinstein was not entirely sad when the news of Nelson Mandela’s death reached him, considering he had a movie about him about to come out. In any case, this biopic is a decent tribute to the great man, though it’s not without its problems, the chief one being that, in name-checking all the events that most of us know of, it rushes through his early years at such top speed that little has much impact and we never really get to know Mandela the man, who often has little to do than give speeches and look noble, while the latter portion of the film is overly dragged out. However, it has an outstanding performance by Idris Elba, who may not look much Mandela but makes a good stab at sounding like him and definitely has his magnetism. When he speaks, you are totally drawn to him. The actor, though hampered by some unconvincing aging makeup, works terribly hard to fill in the blanks left by the script but is actually matched by Naomi Harris as his wife Winnie [who, in contrast to Nelson, hardly seems to age at all] in a really powerful performance.
The film has some heartrending moments when Mandela is visited in prison by members of his family, and is also appropriately gruelling at certain points during its middle section when Mandela is imprisoned. One scene of Winnie being taken away is rather intense for a 12A rating, while the many riot scenes have real immediacy about them, though director Justin Chadwick and cinematographer Lol Crawely end up overdoing the shakycam and the scenes end up being hard to watch not for the right reasons. In fact it sometimes seems that there are two distinct directors in this film, or maybe two cinematographers, one of them giving us far too many shots of children running around in beautiful African countryside, though said countryside really is beautiful. Meanwhile the score by Alex Heffes may strain too hard in telling us what to feel but isn’t it refreshing to have an emotive old-school score like this in these days of film music tending to seem like it was written by machines rather than human beings. Despite having some issues, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom is still a good stab at telling the man’s story.