Film Review – Mandela : Long Walk to Freedom

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Mandela : Long Walk to Freedom – Directed by Justin Chadwick

Release Date – February 6th 2014

I love Idris Elba. I loved him in The Wire as Russell ‘Stringer’ Bell. I loved him in Prometheus as Captain Janek. I loved him in Pacific Rim as Stacker Pentecost.

As Heimdall in the Thor films he was equal parts medieval and from the future.

He is extremely watchable and as the lead actor in the biographical film of Nelson Mandela he is hard to take your eyes off.

But this is a film that is about more than one man. It is about one ma’s struggle for freedom for his entire country across several generations.

As such it’s an ambitious undertaking to cram the life of Nelson Mandela into 141 minutes. Our copy of his book has 751 pages, and as my wife has told me on several hundred occasions it’s a “bloody good read”.

So is this is a “bloody good film”?

It’s certainly a film with a lot of blood. The struggle to end apartheid came at a human cost of more than 8000 lives lost between 1960 and 1994 with tens of thousands more detained.

I watched this movie having seen 12 Years a Slave the day before. A story of one man’s struggle against his own oppression over the course of a much shorter period than Mandela’s life still felt rushed in parts.

No wonder then that Mandela hurtles along trying to jam it all in, from his early childhood in a rural South African village to a few minutes spent on his womanising early legal years before getting stuck into Mandela’s activism with the ANC.

Make some room for his relationship with his wife Winnie, his children, his “terrorist activities”, his trial and subsequent incarceration on Robben Island for 18 years from 1964 until his move to Pollsmoor Prison in 1982 and there’s still a lot more of Mandela’s story to fit in.

Light on much of the detail of his life I struggled to connect with the man known as Madiba – the father of the nation and felt that many aspects of his incredible life were glossed over.

Enjoyable enough to serve as a basic introduction to the big events in Mandela’s life, but surely he is a figure worthy of something more.

A several part documentary or HBO mini-series would really do the man justice. After all that’s what his life was about.

And he achieved that, even if this film doesn’t quite get there. It’s no Invictus, but it’ll have to do for now.

3 & 1/2 stars.

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