Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
Cert: 12A / 146 mins / Dir. Justin Chadwick
Even at a glute-testing two and a half hours, there's a feeling that Long Walk To Freedom needs the sort of screentime which only a TV series can bestow. In some ways the film is far too long, yet in others not nearly long enough. The first act positively whizzes by, and many of the formative events of the young Mandela's years seem to be shown if only to tick them off some checklist. It's this part of the film which does justice to neither the man nor the cause he fought for. Once events leading up to Mandela's imprisonment are played out, the screenplay settles down to a more coherent pace, and we begin to get a clearer picture of Mandela's ideals and modus operandi, although again, if you're going to show 27 years in one act of a film, you have to skim over a fair amount. The plot picks up pace again once the South African government begin negotiations leading to Mandela's release, and the subsequent years seem more a set of bullet points than a character study.
As a personal portrayal of Nelson Mandela, Long Walk To Freedom struggles despite the fantastic work of both Idris Elba and Naomie Harris; there are too many political events at play for the film to concentrate fully on the complicated relationship between the two. As an historical document, the film also falls short, trying to relay too large a timespan in one sitting, skipping over too many details for viewers who aren't already familiar with the chronology.
On a more technical note, the passage of time is relayed quite shoddily for a movie which is about just that. Quite often we get location captions, but relatively few of these feature the year in which the segment is taking place. Since many of the scenes are years apart, the audience is left guessing the elapsed time by gauging how much Nelson's children have grown, especially since Idris Elba doesn't seem to age at all for the first two acts, and Naomie Harris either has shares in Oil of Olay, or is some sort of vampire. My make-up-department flippancy aside, in a film based on chronological history, not dating most of the scenes seems a bewildering choice, at best.
By the end of the film I felt as if I'd been taught (albeit fleetingly) about a series of historical events, but not necessarily about the people who took part in them. Anyone watching the film hoping to get a glimpse of the man behind the legend could well come away feeling disappointed, and I'd expected to be far more moved by the final reel than I actually was. That said, it's worth a watch to see what Elba and Harris bring to their roles; they're always good value, and Long Walk To Freedom is no exception.
I think it achieves what Justin Chadwick set out to do.
You won't lose anything by watching this at home.
With the best will in the world, I shouldn't imagine so.
There isn't. There's room for one, but even I can see how inappropriate it would seem…
I think a film about one of the most influential and important people in the 20th century should be more… well, inspirational, frankly. Let me know what you thought of Long Walk To Freedom in that comment-box down there, or via the Facebook page.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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