Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

Posted: January 3, 2014 in Biography, Drama, History
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mandela_long_walk_to_freedom_ver6Struggle does not begin to describe the story of Nelson Mandela. As a young man, Mandela struggled to find justice in an unjust world. Defending people in the courtroom against ignorance and hatred was commonplace for him until he was called upon to join a much more violent cause. While battling against the South African government for freedom and equal rights, Mandela met Winnie Madikizela and was swept up by her beauty and intensity. She joined him in his struggles but was not prepared for him and his partners to be caught, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. As she continued her violent battle outside of prison, Mandela slowly challenged for the rights of the inmates until given the chance to work with political leaders to move toward fair laws and equal rights.

Starring: Idris Elba (Nelson Mandela), Naomie Harris (Winnie Madikizela), Tony Kgoroge (Walter Sisulu), Riaad Moosa (Ahmed Kathrada), Zolani Mkiva (Raymond Mhlaba), Simo Mogwaza (Andrew Mlangeni), Fana Mokoena (Govan Mbeki), Terry Pheto (Evelyn Mase)

Headed by Elba, this cast projected all of the pain, agony, and determination needed to tell the story of Nelson Mandela. Elba was able to emote a wide variety of characteristics of this freedom fighter, whether is was anger at a younger age or temperance toward peaceful negotiations as a weather but spry older man. Harris brought forth an intensity to her role that stood above the rest of the cast.

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Justin Chadwick’s version of Mandela’s story came at a interesting time, given the real Mandela’s health and recent passing. His was a story that unfortunately was too big for even this film to tell effectively. Periods of his life, including his battles in the courtroom, destructive actions against the government, imprisonment, and talks with political leaders, all felt like just snapshots in this 2-hour telling of his life. There felt to be so much missing from the experience, but it still provided a soulful taste of what he went through to struggle toward freedom and the end of segregation.

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While much of the story felt short, the acting made the experience incredibly worthwhile. Elba’s performance brought life into this real epic quest. Mandela’s battles with anger, remorse, and hopes for peace felt all to palpable as he aged through the film. This also leads to an acknowledgement of the makeup department’s ability to transform Elba throughout the film to match the real Mandela’s aging through the imprisonment. There were some graphic scenes to sprinkle in the reality of the apartheid in South Africa and keep focus on why he fought in the first place.

This film certainly raises up the heroism and bravery of Nelson Mandela though all of the challenges and struggles he endured to eventually become the first democratically-elected president of South Africa, though it leaves a lot of be desired through its rushed presentation of his life’s experiences.

Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5

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