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Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom - Review

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

IDRIS Elba and Naomie Harris deliver two striking performances in Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom but they can’t prevent Justin Chadwick’s film from feeling a little too pedestrian at times.

Inspired by Mandela’s own book of the same name, the film chronicles his journey from idealistic (and womanising) young man to guerilla fighter, prison captive and revered politician.

Yet while certainly inspirational in places, and fascinating at others, the film also has a tendency to feel like biopic movie-making by numbers for too much of its generous running time. If you know Mandela’s story, there is very little that’s new or surprising, while Chadwick’s direction is way too episodic.

Admittedly, Nelson’s story is so vast and transitional that it’s nearly impossible to condense everything within the confines of a movie without feeling like chapters, which may also be why previous directors have avoided doing so by focusing their films (Invictus, Goodbye Bafana) on particular sections.

That being said, the film remains worth seeing for Elba and Harris alone – the former imbuing Mandela with a consistently engaging mix of bravado, charisma, anger, wisdom, sadness and dignity. It’s correct that his performance is courting awards buzz even though he looks set to compete in an especially tough year.

Harris, too, portrays the long-suffering Winnie in suitably complex fashion, believably transitioning from wide eyed, devoted lover to embittered radical. Indeed, it’s no small compliment to Harris to say that she probably deserves her own film!

Chadwick also delivers a handful of telling sequences that either inspire or anger depending on their context. Mandela’s trial is a particularly compelling chapter, as is his pre-release negotiations with De Clerk’s advisers, while scenes of some of the atrocities committed by both sides are suitably harrowing.

It’s just a shame that Chadwick takes a relatively risk-free approach, emerging with a film that engages without ever feeling as remarkable as it should.

Watch the trailer:

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 146mins
UK Release Date: Friday, January 3, 3014