Director Justin Chadwick tackles five decades of an iconic life in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Chadwick’s biopic is presented in an accurate and entertaining way that flows effortlessly in a mere 139 minute film. Based on Mandela’s autobiography of the same name, the story offers keen insight to the many struggles and triumphs of Mandela’s public and private life.
Idris Elba stars as Mandela, the South African activist who spent 27 years in prison before his release and election as the nation’s first black president. Though Elba doesn’t physically resemble Mandela, he immerses himself into the character so eloquently he does an admirable job portraying him. The film does well at depicting Mandela’s time in prison, showing how he survived his oppressors and later earned the respect of those many considered the enemy.
The standout performance of Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela will give the audience a snippet of her life as she continued to fight during her husband’s imprisonment. Her challenges are depicted briefly in the film and will make audiences want to learn more about her personal journey. The film ultimately leaves you with a better understanding of both Nelson and Winnie’s views on the future of South Africa, even in the face of Nelson’s eventual rise to power.
Chadwick’s rendition of the Mandela’s autobiography does leave a few holes in his life story. Mandela’s younger life is glazed over and not much time is spent on establishing Nelson’s character prior to the uprisings. So in short, the amazing turnabout is not sufficiently explained and generates more questions than answers.
Overall, Mandela is a very well depicted movie with exceptional acting from Elba, Harris and the supporting cast. Chadwick’s stylized render of South Africa’s tumultuous times is both compelling and ultimately uplifting. This film is one for the ages in both moral and historical relevance, and definitely a must see. Grade: A
Grade: 4 1/2 stars
Running Time: 146 minutes
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