Monday, 17 February 2014

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (2013) Film Review

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom Poster
Title: Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
Director: Justin Chadwick
Screenwriter: William Nicholson 
Length: 141 minutes
Year of Release: 2013

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom is a film directed by Justin Chadwick, and stars Idris Elba, Naomi Harris and Terry Pheto. It's based upon the autobiography of the same name, which looks into most of Nelson Mandela's life, and the struggles he went through to unite his country, no matter the colour of skin.

To begin, I'll start with the biggest negative relating to this film. Ultimately, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom feels like a highlights reel of Nelson Mandela's life. Nicholson, the screenwriter, appears to have tried to cover as much of Mandela's life as possible, despite the consequence that the film may turn out oddly paced. And that's what it really is, thanks to Chadwick's final execution; very oddly paced. The vast majority of the film simply rushes through most of the story. The first 30 minutes or so, fortunately, is well paced, and introduces you to Mandela in his younger days perfectly, and allowed you time to draw close to the character, and feel his triumphs and failures. But it's when he reaches the imprisonment section of his life, that the film's pacing varies. For portions of his 27 year long imprisonment, we have lingering moments which keep to an idea or period of time for more than a few minutes. To begin with, we watch his first few days in prison in their entirety, so as to be introduced to the idea of what Mandela's life will be like for the next great portion of his life. But from there, the whole 27 years simply floats away, and we don't really appreciate the amount of hardship and struggle he has to overcome in those long years. That was the portion I was most interested in seeing, and it seemed to fail my expectations. The rest of the film, after the prison portion, seems to edge out and resume good, solid pacing, but ultimately, the damage has already been done at that point.

I should leave the negatives behind for now, and point out some positives to be had here. Idris Elba as Mandela is a wonderful piece of casting, and he carries the film perfectly. He handles both the charisma and power in Mandela's younger years, to the older, more subtle presence he commands in his later days, and really captures your emotion. He's a very good actor, and this only reinforces that fact. The rest of the ensemble gives solid performances; there simply isn't one that I can downright criticise. Naomi Harris, who plays his wife Winnie Mandela, is very well cast, and gives a very powerful, strong performance on all fronts. Another good performance to be noted was offered from Riaad Moosa, who plays one of Mandela's right hand men, and he gave a small but passionate performance in his supporting role. 

This film, to my delight, didn't necessarily show Mandela as an incredibly calm, brilliant, soft man all of the time. Nowadays, he is considered one of the greatest men who ever lived, and people talk of him as if he was a saint. And yes, he certainly did some incredibly brilliant, wonderful things for his people, yes still, he was a human, and humans don't always act with the best of intentions for everyone. The film portrays Mandela as someone with faults, but yet still a human who can be looked up to by anyone. The first portion of the film, where we see his rise in prominence has him pushing away his first wife and children, so that he could spend more time campaigning. Whilst his work was incredibly important, it does anger you a small amount, seeing this hard working woman having to take all the responsibility for the family, because her husband is so concentrated and driven upon his work. These faults help make Mandela into something less of an idol, and more into someone who we can relate to, and sympathize to. Chadwick captures that vulnerable, human side of Mandela so well throughout the film, despite it's pacing problems, and it makes for a protagonist whom is much more interesting than he could've been.

The production value of the film is impressive, with some very nice set pieces. The replica of the Robben Island prison, where Mandela was held for a vast portion of his imprisonment, is quite spectacular, to say the least. Take a look around the internet, and you'll find that the set designers really tried to create an environment which has the same properties as the actual Robben Island location, and has a hostility about it, something that a prison certainly should incorporate. The camera work is also very good as well. There are quite a few irritating stylistic shots, with sun beaming into the camera, and close up galore, yet these don't detract from the overall spectacular work of the cinematographer, Lol Crawley. By the way, I'm not kidding when I say his name his "Lol," because it actually is! Crawley and Chadwick work together to create a very beautiful, well executed film in the way of production design and camera work. 


Conclusion:
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom tries desperately to capture you in it's grasp, and fill you with tears by the end, but unfortunately, it misses that stage by quite a bit. The pacing is mismatched at best, yet Elba's performance as Mandela is mesmerizing, and the writing is still very good. Whilst maybe a little too long, it's a very well made film, and one that has you invested from start to finish.

Junkie Score: 8.0
Worth Admission Price? Yes

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By the way, I apologise for my lack of posting this last week. My desktop computer's mouse has stopped working, and I'm much too lazy to get off my ass and grab a new one! Expect at most, 1 or 2 more reviews this week, and possibly a catch-up for last week's missed episode of Arrow; I couldn't seem to find it on my iPod, damn it!