Review: Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom – A Reverential And Safe Biopic

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Mandela Cover PicThere is very little that is not already known about the life of South African Leader Nelson Mandela, yet a film on his incredible life has been long overdue.

Long Walk To Freedom chronicles Mandela’s life from his rural childhood to his initiation into the ANC (African National Congress), his twenty seven long years of incarceration to becoming the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Mandela goes from a dapper lawyer in Johannesburg to a revolutionary against apartheid facing prolonged jail time on Robben Island. The film also touches on his early Casanova days and his great romance with Winnie Mandela (Naomie Harris).

Director Justin Chadwick ropes in Idris Elba to play the towering personality, and by the end, as he ages, he does indeed begin to resemble the revered international figure. His accent remains a little more consistent too, versus the hash made by Harris.

Its irksome to see Winnie Mandela portrayed in soft focus, ethereal in the early days of courtship and even handled with gentleness when she assumes a more militant stand in the fight against apartheid. Like the rest of the film, this too seems like a little too much reverence, but that maybe because the film is based on the book written by Mandela.

The early days up and much of his jail time story is told in a wavering pace – snappy at times, lethargic at others. For me the movie really picked up only in the last forty five minutes, when Mandela becomes the statesman, discarding violence in favour of peace and forgiveness, and negotiating with President DeClerk’s administration for the future of his country.

At the end, Mandela is shown a lonely man, who lost his personal life, freedom, the marriages and deaths of children and eventually even the marriage he cherished.

It’s indeed a long walk through Mandela’s life and mostly told without drama or gimmickry. It’s hard to get into, too deferential and relies heavily on the gravitas of the man rather than employing great tools of storytelling.

Rating: **1/2