Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom is a film directed by Justin Chadwick who people may know for his work with The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). The film stars Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela and Naomie Harris as Winnie Madikizela. Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom is a historical chronicle of the life of Mandela from his birth to his successful election as President Of South Africa.
The film starts with Mandela as a young child and slowly introduces you to the type of country that he lived in during his early life. The film does well to set up a context for the motivation Mandela had to seek the type of freedom he had spent his whole life pursuing. Not knowing much about South African culture or the work Mandela had done in great detail I appreciated getting a glimpse of the way thing were for the people living there.
As the movie progressed much of the focus stayed with Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) as he is the main character. But what was done well was that in presenting this character on screen we were able to slowly watch him develop and build a life under the white African rulers of the time. The portrayal of Mandela was one of a person who had a great amount of will power for what he believed in but also a great amount of physical strength, with a few boxing scenes and work out scenes. I enjoyed the portrayal of the character on screen because the filmmaker’s did not make it out to be like Mandela was the greatest person of all time. There were some scenes with his first wife Evelyn Mase (Terry Pheto) in which Mandela was shown to not necessarily be the best of men to be married to.
The movie does dabble also a little bit for most of the first quarter to middle section in Nelson Mandela’s love life and his interest in Winnie Madikizela who is played by Naomie Harris. All is thrown away though when Nelson Mandela is jailed by the South African government for committing crimes and protesting about freedom just way to much. I won’t go too much into the plot from here but a lot of the jail scenes and some of the anarchy scenes are strong movie moments and really add a tense atmosphere and feeling when watching the film.
The acting in this movie from Idris Elba is really quite phenomenal in Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom. The way he played this character was perfect on screen from the physically strong young Mandela, to the peaceful wiser older Mandela was all well done. Idris Elba has done probably one of the better performances of his career in this role and I hope to see him more in the future in more challenging roles because I do think he does have a lot of talent and I’d like to see him in more powerful films like this one. Naomie Harris as Mandela’s main affection in this film was good in her role with some great scenes with Idris Elba and also many great acting moments particularly in the harsher scenes for her character such as when she was being interrogated by the South African government of the time. Both these two leads were very good in their role and I think the casting of Idris Elba in this role in particular was spot on, he did a great job. Sadly I can’t say much more about the rest of the cast, everybody overall was quite good but as the for the rest of the characters and actors, I have all but forgotten them. Dont’ get me wrong though, the acting by everyone in this movie is good, just with so much focus on Idris Elba and Naomie Harris the others just didn’t stand out enough.
The costume design was great in the film and especially for Mandela there were a few outfits that Idris Elba wore during the film where I thought to myself, were instantly recognizable. The hairstyles and make up on Idris Elba and Naomie Harris were also well done particularly as the characters aged. Sound was also good in this film and some of the powerful scenes really emphasized Mandela’s speeches well which added to the feeling that this film was going for, which was, a powerful message. The movie is nominated for an Oscar for best original song by Bono called “Ordinary Love” which is a good song and other songs in the film do stand out in certain parts, overall sound and costume design and all other presentation elements are good and appropriate for the film.
Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom also does a great job showing off a lot of the country that is South Africa. A lot of the more secluded locations are great to see on the big screen and South Africa is definitely a nice country with a lot of natural beauty for its natural environment, which is calm and quiet and peaceful. Sort of contrasts against the violence and racist conflicts of its people though and does show that Mandela’s way of peace was probably the best way to go considering so much of the country is peaceful.
Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom does have a very good screenplay in the beginning to middle parts of the film but being something that is based on history means that there is a lot to fit into the 141 minutes of screen time that the movie has. While this movie does well to present Nelson Mandela’s main message of freedom for everyone in South Africa, it does get a little rushed towards the end with Idris Elba aging quite quickly once the second half of the movie starts. While this is okay, it does feel a bit like the story is rushed a bit at the end and in comparison to the start of the film which starts off very slow, which fine and all, but being at two different speeds of storytelling does take away from the experience a bit. Maybe they should have went for a longer film to tell everything that needed to be told, something like the length of The Wolf Of Wall Street probably would have made the storytelling better as Mandela: A long Walk To Freedom was certainly interesting to watch and they would not have to speed it up so much at the end.
Overall Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom is a good strong film to watch and will interest those who are interested in the history and story of Nelson Mandela. It’s a great educational film where someone can learn a lot about South Africa and its cultural history for the last few decades. But it’s not really a movie you go to see for entertainment, it’s more of an educational film. That’s not to say it’s not entertaining though, it’s certainly very interesting and the ideas spoken by Mandela about freedom would leave a lot for one to think about by the end of a viewing. It has some great performances by the cast especially Idris Elba and Naomie Harris which make it a film worth watching.