5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.5 stars... Noble and well-intended but ultimately by-the-numbers biopic,
This review is from: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom [DVD] (DVD)
"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" (2013 release from South Africa; 139 min.) is the movie interpretation of Nelson Manela's 1995 autobiography of the same name. An introductory voice-over from Mandela (played by Idris Elba) stating the "my father had given me the name troublemaker" is never explained nor explored. and instead we are almost immediately thrown into Mandela's private law practice as a 24 yr. old in Johannesburg in 1942. So much for understanding Mandela's background or upbringing. The movie provides a parallel chronicle of Mandela's family life and political rise. Even though controversial for much of his life (up until becoming the beloved elder statesman in the early 90s), there is only one hint in the entire movie of Mandela as less than a saint (when we seen him cheating on his first wife and then beating her when denying the affair). The movie dutifully documents the 27 year prison term, and Mandela's subsequent release in 1990 and becoming South Africa's President in 1994.
Couple of comments: first and foremost, given the immense popularity of Nelson Mandela and his incredible life story, I was surprised how little emotional pull this movie has, despite its noble intentions. It simply came across as a by-the-numbers biopic without much cohesion or vision. The only time I felt emotionally connected/involved in the movie was when Mandela, then in prison on Robben Island, gets a visit from his now 16 yr. old daughter, whom he last saw when she was 5. Second, I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that every single white person (man and women) in the entire movie up until near the very end is portrayed as an abusive fascist pig, and I do mean EVERY SINGLE ONE. Third, let's give proper credit to the acting performance of British actor Idris Elba, portraying Mandela over a timespan of 5 decades. It is near impossible to portray such an iconic figure with credibility but Elba somehow manages. Fourth, without being disrespectful, I can only imagine the imaginary high-fives that took place at The Weinstein Company, given the timing of Mandela's passing away, literally within a week of the movie's official release, thereby significantly increasing the attention to this movie. Harvey Weinstein couldn't have scripted it or timed it better himself. Lastly, there is a bunch of great African music throughout the movie, as well as more 'traditional' songs like Bob Marley's cover of "War" and U2's new song, "Ordinary Love", which over the movie's closing credits (the soundtrack is available here on Amazon for anyone interested).
The movie came out 2 weeks ago here in Cincinnati but due to the holidays I only had a chance to go see it this weekend. The late matinee screening where I saw this at was not particularly well attended, and given the less than robust word of mouth this movie has generated, and the apparent lack of Oscar potential but for Elba's performance, I don't see this movie becoming the box office hit that one might've expected from a movie like this. Bottom line: "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" is noble and well intended, but regretfully falls short of expectations and feels like "just another" by-the-numbers biopic that fails to surprise or captivate.