Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (12A)
- Starring: Terry Pheto, Deon Lotz, Idris Elba, Naomie Harris
- Director: Justin Chadwick
- Duration: 146 mins
- Year: 2013
Alison Rowat's Review
Idris Elba gives the performance of his career to date as the beloved ANC leader who led the fight against apartheid, brought democracy to South Africa, and became the country's first black president.
At 146 minutes, Justin Chadwick's picture covers the story as comprehensively as you might imagine, if not a little too much so. The story has a natural cut-off point in Mandela's release from prison, and in choosing to go beyond that the picture rather tails away. Regardless, the performances throughout are first class.
Elba has the accent nailed, but more importantly he conveys the dignity and unquenchable spirit of the man. Naomie Harris matches him for presence as Winnie Mandela, and the well informed screenplay by William Nicholson (Gladiator, Shadowlands), adapted from Mandela's autobiography, gives her a fitting share of the spotlight.
Hard to see any other picture of the great man being as definitive as this.
Paul Greenwood's Review
The key problem faced by this worthy but slightly dull biography of Nelson Mandela lies in its need to cram his entire life into a couple of hours.
It begins with Mandela (Idris Elba) as a lawyer in 1940s Johannesburg, where he's approached by the African National Congress and soon becomes a political force who believes in the power of the masses to bring about change for the better in a white-ruled country.
The path to his arrest and imprisonment covers powerful events in nicely mounted fashion, but it all smacks of a box-checking exercise. It's solid, competent and bland, as is the way with many biopics, although it doesn't shy away from darker aspects of Mandela's life such as his adultery.
It's not lacking for stirring moments, like an opening that shows his tribal rituals, but nor is it short of far less interesting distractions, particularly those involving his wife, Winnie (Naomie Harris), while the prison years fly by without much in the way of dramatic heft.
Elba is very strong in the title role, and whether as an orator or a man of great compassion, he brings his subject to the screen with dignity and passion.
Mandela's recent death lends this a must-see quality it otherwise wouldn't have merited, but it isn't much more than a respectful bit of background noise while we all reflect on how thankful we should be to have shared our planet with him.