#REVIEW: “MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM”
The timing couldn’t have been any more ironic. Based on the Autobiography by recently-deceased former South African President, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, its Film Adaptation by Director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) has the ambitious task of paying tribute to one of the most celebrated Revolutionaries of all time. Its release comes at a moment when it could well benefit from renewed public interest and a new generation looking to educate itself.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom chronicles the Leader as an imperfect Man and how he came to be a revered in his Homeland and abroad, fighting the Apartheid regime which oppressed him and the people of South Africa, dividing a Nation by skin colour. We see Mandela (Idris Elba) struggle with fidelity in his initial marriage, the pressure to not let-down his Mother and his all-consuming ambition of justice which sees him and his Allies place their lives on the line, enduring a 27-plus year imprisonment on conspiracy to overthrow the Government. Along the way, we meet his beautiful Wife Winnie (Naomie Harris) with much of the Film centering on the consequences of Mandela‘s time in jail, separating the two Lovers, yet keeping them united in their fight. We witness Mandela‘s transition and growth as a Man after enduring gruelling punishment and more importantly, his rise through the power of forgiveness.
Elba puts forth one of his finest performances yet here in an already Award-winning Body of Work, embodying the spirit of Mandela precisely particularly late in the Film. At moments his imposing physical stature detracts from our being drawn-into Mandela‘s mindspace, but that eventually is overlooked on the strength of his delivery here. The stunning Harris likewise in the Final Act of the Film is particularly convincing in Winnie‘s angriest state. Much of the earlier part of the Film isn’t quite as solid, struggling to find its tone.
The Film’s most prominent issues cannot be traced to the performances of its two Lead Actors, but more so to Chadwick‘s choice to over-romanticize and keep Mandela perhaps a bit too elevated, rather than taking us deep into his mindset and understanding the root cause of his personal struggles. We never truly grasp the magnitude of injustice those oppressed by the Apartheid regime had faced, the driving force behind Mandela‘s fight. Furthermore, key moments might hastily have been skipped-over leading-up to his release. As violence continues to erupt in South Africa, Mandela somehow increasingly finds his inner-peace, although how this is so isn’t a point of focus.
Regardless whether Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom truly is the fitting Tribute of a gritty Drama which Mandela truly deserves, it still educates and stands aesthetically as a beautiful piece of Filmmaking. eOne Films releases on Christmas Day.