Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. United Kingdom, 2009. Daybreak Pictures, Film Afrika Worldwide. Screenplay by Paula Milne, based on the book The Fall Of Apartheid: The Inside Story From Smuts to Mbeki by Robert Harvey. Cinematography by David Odd. Produced by Hal Vogel. Music by Martin Phipps. Production Design by Chris Roope. Film Editing by Clive Barrett, Dominic Stevens. Golden Globe Awards 2009.
The years of oppression, violence and injustice under Apartheid in South Africa have taken their toll and it is time for change. A British company sends its representative (Jonny Lee Miller) to set up talks between the all-white government in power and members of the African National Congress, to resolve issues and, while they are at it, release Nelson Mandela from prison. The company’s aim for doing this is actually to improve their own revenue, feeling that a harmonious society is better for business, but happy to take on the image of heroism that comes with facilitating this exercise in peacemaking. The many people that this situation draws in who become key players in ending the evil regime include a professor (William Hurt, doing a terrible accent) torn between prejudiced ideologies and the need to see the violence end, and Thabo Mbeki (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who is idealistic but knows the treachery that the negotiation table can bring. Intelligent direction and muted writing contribute to a detailed but not quite succinct representation of a very important period in twentieth century history. Many of the characters feel like bland explorations of types, while the dialogue exchanges are never rich enough to reach any kind of memorable climax, but most disappointing is that the irony of capitalism being at the heart of positive political change is on display but never quite investigated. There have been plenty of movies made on the subject and period, and this one does not redefine any of them, but it is respectable and well made.