Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom: Movie Review
Cast: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris
Director: Justin Chadwick
Nelson Mandela passed away last year, but this latest was always in the pipeline long before the death.
Based on the autobiography of the same name (Long Walk to Freedom), Luther star Idris Elba is Mandela, as we follow his journey from 1940s crusading lawyer to freedom fighter before his internment on Robben Island and subsequent release.
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom is the man's story, rather than really being the story of the man.
While Elba manages to channel a lot of the man's charisma and the inflections of the voice - as well as the look of Mandela in later life - the film does little to really ignite the spark of passion of Mandela himself, preferring to follow a more leaden path in the story.
Sure, there are moments when the warts and all portrayal adds a layer that perhaps some have never seen before of Mandela, such as the womanising and disintegration of his first marriage, but even those occasional insights add little to a story that's already been told before.
One of the problems is the way so much ground is covered so quickly that it affects the narrative - for example, when Mandela is imprisoned on Robben Island, he and his fellow prisoners are told by their captors they must wear short trousers and that will never change. Cue the inevitable asking for long trousers, a request which is granted shortly after Mandela has a chat with the boss; no reason is given and viewers are left befuddled.
The problem is the story is very much by the numbers and does exactly what you'd expect while trying to cover way too much ground; while the earnest Elba and the softer Naomie Harris do a lot to carry this with grace, pose and dignity, the issue is that the film never really stirs more within you than you'd expect. Perhaps, if those involved had decided to potentially focus on one point of time and one story untold, it may have been stronger, rather than feeling like it's gone through a checklist of moments to cover.
I'm disappointed to say that I also never felt inspired by the story (though some may leave this feeling that they have been) as Mandela preaches his message of strength through unity as he was galvanised into action. It's certainly not Elba's fault at all - and there's an occasional vein of humour running throughout as well as some real life scenes and footage being folded into the mix.
But it's curious to note that as the Oscar nominated U2 song plays over a montage of photos of Mandela, those alone do more to stir some passion within than what's passed in the previous 140 minutes. Perhaps some times, the truth itself is stronger than a fiction created on screen.