Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. United Kingdom/South Africa, 2013. Videovision Entertainment, Distant Horizon, Film Afrika Worldwide, Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa, Long Walk to Freedom, National Empowerment Fund, Origin Pictures, Pathé. Screenplay by William Nicholson, based on the autobiography by Nelson Mandela. Cinematography by Lol Crawley. Produced by Anant Singh. Music by Alex Heffes. Production Design by Johnny Breedt. Costume Design by Diana Cilliers, Ruy Filipe. Film Editing by Rick Russell. Academy Awards 2013. Golden Globe Awards 2013. Toronto International Film Festival 2013.
The incredible life of one of the world’s most influential politicians is examined in this bland epic. Idris Elba plays the man who grew up in a racially divided South Africa, escaping his humble origins to become a successful lawyer before the inspiration to free the black citizens of his nation, living in inhumane conditions under Apartheid, sees him joining the newly formed African National Congress. Deciding that freeing the nation via peaceful means is impossible under so evil a regime, Mandela and his ANC comrades play dirty to fight a dirty government and for their efforts are rewarded with lifelong prison sentences. Mandela and his colleagues spend almost thirty years incarcerated, while at home Winnie Mandela (Naomie Harris) fights for change. When they are finally released and he moves towards his glory as president of the nation, there is a divide between Mandela’s desire for reconciliation and his wife’s thirst for revenge that threatens to drive them apart. Muddled and overlong, the film bites off far more than it can chew, indecisive about whether it is about a man’s burgeoning political consciousness, the conflict between his work and his family or the ironies inherent in the story of a man who exemplifies peaceful human co-existence but came to it through many actions that were decidedly in favour of conflict. This results in an accidental hagiography of a man we never get to know, and leaves us with broad characterizations of symbolic figures, with the physically impressive and incredibly miscast Elba and his stacked-god body telling us much about the way this man has been reinterpreted for this self-righteously smug movie.