Film review: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (8 out of 10)

It is a daunting idea to make a movie about an iconic figure in history. So to put together one concerning a figure so renowned and still alive (at the time of filming) as Nelson Mandela was a very brave move.

Idrs Elba as Mandela.
Idrs Elba as Mandela.

The movie needed to reveal the man, warts and all, to be a success and credible.

And, perhaps surprisingly, this is pretty much just that.

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Any criticism of the man has centred on his association with violence and his dalliances with various women as a young man.

But director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl - 2008) and writer William Nicholson have taken the details from Mandela’s autobiography to create a full and frank story.

The title A Long Walk To Freedom is very apt as the film covers his life from childhood to his inauguration as President in a whopping 144 minutes.

However, I’m not sure even this amount of time does justice to the 50-odd years of South African history covered in the movie.

The film splits into three parts: Mandela’s early life leading up to his arrest, his time in prison, and the political discussions and manoeuvring on his release.

Running across these sections is his relationship with his wife Winnie which, arguably, is the most interesting aspect, revealing how and why these two ended up poles apart.

Idris Elba is remarkable in the main role and ‘ages’ very effectively throughout the film.

Naomie Harris also puts in a strong performance as Winnie Madikizela.

But the strength of the film is that everyone pulls out the stops to present an honest account.

Chadwick intersperses the action with some real footage and we are left in no doubt how bad the apartheid regime was and the brutality by all concerned when it eventually broke down.

Overall, this is a sound attempt to show how one man overcame numerous hurdles to unite a nation torn apart by hate and oppression.

Film details: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (12A) 144mins

Director: Justin Chadwick

Starring: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris

Screening courtesy of Cineworld Crawley