Published: 18/12/2013 14:26 - Updated: 18/12/2013 14:57

REVIEW: Mandela - Long Walk To Freedom

Written byHugh Ross


Mandela (Idris Elba) finally takes that long walk to freedom with Winnie (Naomie Harris) by his side.
Mandela (Idris Elba) finally takes that long walk to freedom with Winnie (Naomie Harris) by his side.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (12A)


REAL life eclipsed a film made about real life during the glitzy London premiere of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom earlier this month.

The audience at the gala event were reportedly in tears when it was announced the former South African president had died.

His daughter Zindzi Mandela and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were among the attendees and a minute’s silence was held afterwards.

Since then there has been wall-to-wall global coverage of Mandela’s death, his fight and legacy.

But what about the movie based on his book which has been hotly tipped for an Oscar?

The biopic of the anti-apartheid hero sees Luther and The Wire star Idris Elba take on the lead role.

It was well-received by the Mandela family, but does not shy away from Madiba's role in the break-up of his first marriage or in violence carried out by the African National Congress.

The idealistic young solicitor is sentenced to a life-term in jail with fellow ANC members and it is those prison

Mandela (Idris Elba) faces charges of treason.
Mandela (Idris Elba) faces charges of treason.

scenes where a rapidly-greying Elba earns his corn.

Most film-goers will be familiar with Mandela in his later years and the London actor comes into his own, as the mannerisms, elderly shuffle, measured statements and even his wave are uncanny.

It can be difficult to forget younger actors are playing elderly men. But it brought to mind Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill performances of the much-loved characters Jack and Victor in Still Game, and the gait and movement performed by Elba is reminiscent of the Craiglang duo. 

We are less familiar with pre-prison Mandela and Elba, who is built like a heavyweight boxer, dons the gloves and initially spurns the ANC, while there are hints at his attractiveness to women, including a love scene, included.

Naomie Harris shines as the firebrand wife Winnie Mandela but the couple grow apart physically and ideologically as the decades in jail roll by for Mandela.

They are polar opposites on his release and the tension comes to a climax with bloody violence in the townships which gives way to the joy conveyed at the first post-apartheid elections in 1994.

A respectful film for the most part but as with most based on real events it plods in places like a TV movie although Elba’s portrayal of Mandela should see him at the forefront during awards season and confirm his arrival in Hollywood.   

Arguably, his performance arguably eclipses the film and it’s worth a watch for that.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom goes on general release on 3rd January 2014.


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