Top positive review
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Superb, detailed and faithful telling of a great story.
on 30 November 2013
This much-awaited film has taken years to bring to screen. The makers decided that they would rather not make the film at all, if not done as accurately as possible. Years of painstaking research and attention to detail went into this movie before the cameras even started filming. Sets such as the Soweto street where the Mandela family lived, the Palace of Justice in Pretoria, and the maximum security jail on Robben Island, are so well made that it is difficult to believe that these were not shot on location. The film traces Mandela from boyhood, through to his inauguration as President, in May 1994. Unfortunately,some periods are glossed over while others are paid more attention. The strain on Mandela and his family is a thread that runs throughout.
The result is moving and beautifully rendered, but does not shy away from the horror of apartheid, as well as the flaws of Nelson Mandela himself. Due to the sometimes harrowing scenes, shot for the movie, or through use of actual news footage, this film is not always an easy one to experience. However uncomfortable the truth was, it forms a vital part of the story. We see verbal racial abuse in the streets, and later, brutality dealt to both Nelson and Winnie Mandela. It is interesting how each handles these abuses.
The film opens with valleys bathed in golden light, and there is much beauty throughout the long (2.5 hours) movie. The times are perfectly replicated, with clothing, cars, streets, and buildings all made very specific to the era being shown, right down to an old SA railways logo not seen for decades, in Johannesburg station. Idris Elba and Naomie Harris are spot-on as Nelson and Winnie. Despite not being South Africans, they do not put a foot wrong. There are a few factual inaccuracies, such as the playing of a Miriam Makeba song during a scene set in 1942, well before Makeba was known, and the colour of the Toyota Cressida in which Mandela was driven from Victor Verster prison was a creamy yellow, not navy blue as shown here. These are small faults though.
The film is a triumph on many levels: As a telling of history, as a love story, and about what helped make Mandela become the great leader he was. "Long Walk to Freedom" is definitely worthy of its great subject.