Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
The Complete ‘Extant’ Series w/Halle Berry Coming Out On Blu-Ray DVD in Dec. The Complete ‘Extant’ Series w/Halle Berry Coming Out On Blu-Ray DVD in Dec. 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Premieres on HBO Tonight (Trailer) 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Premieres on HBO Tonight (Trailer) Weekend B.O. Sept. 12-14 (Will 'No Good Deed's' Success Help Make Taraji P. Henson an A-lister?) Weekend B.O. Sept. 12-14 (Will 'No Good Deed's' Success Help Make Taraji P. Henson an A-lister?) Producer Charles Belk and Actress Daniele Watts Apparently "Fit the Description" (Just Another Day in the Neighborhood) Producer Charles Belk and Actress Daniele Watts Apparently "Fit the Description" (Just Another Day in the Neighborhood) TIFF 2014 Review: 'Top Five' is Chris Rock's Funniest Movie in Years - If Not Ever TIFF 2014 Review: 'Top Five' is Chris Rock's Funniest Movie in Years - If Not Ever What’s the Big Secret That Got Those ‘No Good Deed’ Screenings Canceled? What’s the Big Secret That Got Those ‘No Good Deed’ Screenings Canceled? Taraji P. Henson Executive Produces Indie ‘Seasons of Love’ (Appears Alongside Gladys Knight, LeToya Luckett) Taraji P. Henson Executive Produces Indie ‘Seasons of Love’ (Appears Alongside Gladys Knight, LeToya Luckett) TV: New Corrections Officer for 'Orange, Another ABC Drama for Shonda Rhimes, SNL's 1st Black 'Weekend Update' Anchor TV: New Corrections Officer for 'Orange, Another ABC Drama for Shonda Rhimes, SNL's 1st Black 'Weekend Update' Anchor 'Drumline: A New Beat' (Sequel to the 2002 Film) Gets a Premiere Date + New Trailer (Watch It) 'Drumline: A New Beat' (Sequel to the 2002 Film) Gets a Premiere Date + New Trailer (Watch It) Watch First Episode of ABC's New Series 'Black-ish' Now Watch First Episode of ABC's New Series 'Black-ish' Now It's a Done Deal - Paramount Pictures Will Distribute Chris Rock's 'Top Five' Worldwide It's a Done Deal - Paramount Pictures Will Distribute Chris Rock's 'Top Five' Worldwide Black Kids from Ferguson Speak Out in 'Hey White People' Comedic Video Educating Whites on Racism Black Kids from Ferguson Speak Out in 'Hey White People' Comedic Video Educating Whites on Racism 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Coming to HBO (Trailer) 'Terror at the Mall,' Documentary on Siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Coming to HBO (Trailer) Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Watch First Trailer for Tyler Perry's New OWN TV Drama 'If Loving You Is Wrong' Watch First Trailer for Tyler Perry's New OWN TV Drama 'If Loving You Is Wrong' OWN Announces Cast for New Drama Series 'If Loving You is Wrong' From Tyler Perry OWN Announces Cast for New Drama Series 'If Loving You is Wrong' From Tyler Perry Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Review: 'Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom' Anchored by Strong Performances (Opens Friday)

Shadow and Act By Nijla Mumin | Shadow and Act November 26, 2013 at 1:04PM

Review: 'Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom' Anchored by Strong Performances (Opens Friday)
0
man

Adapting an autobiography for film always carries a unique set of challenges: making sure to present the subject as fully as the text dictates, but also stepping back for some objectivity and complexity. When the person is Nelson Mandela- the face of the South African Anti-Apartheid Movement- the task becomes even greater.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, and directed by British filmmaker Justin Chadwick, follows Mandela from childhood, to his resistance and leadership within the African National Congress (ANC), his imprisonment, and his long-awaited election as the first black president of South Africa at the close of Apartheid. To capture the extensive amount of action in this period, the film jumps around to different events and people, never spending too much time in one place. An early scene involving Mandela’s alleged adultery in his first marriage, and the family he left behind are given little attention before being overshadowed by later themes and characters.

While the film may have too quick of a timeline, its two stars keep it grounded. During the beginning of the film, it is difficult not to notice that you are looking at a very attractive portrayal of Mandela- the Idris Elba version. I worried that this would take attention away from the story, but it didn’t. Elba gradually transforms into Mandela. Early scenes of him dancing and flirting with women were fun but not as convincing. However, a later scene where he delivers what would become Mandela’s landmark statement during the Rivonia trial showcased his mastery of Mandela’s accent, voice, posture, and presence, culminating in one of the most powerful lines in the film: “It is an ideal for which I’m prepared to die.”

Naomie Harris is a Godsend as his wife and fellow activist Winnie Mandela, showing a delicate balance of tenderness, passion, and anger. While Elba definitely masters Mandela, Harris is endowed with a fascinating character arc in Winnie.  On one of their first dates, Winnie passionately tells Nelson that she “hates” the white Apartheid regime, and they continue to flirt and kiss. Later, when Nelson is imprisoned, Winnie becomes the target of unjust government interrogation and physical abuse. That anger and hatred begin to manifest and grow inside of her. One title sequence reads: “After 16 months in solitary confinement” as she sits frozen in a dank cell, and we are introduced to a new Winnie Mandela. She yells “Amandla Ngawethu” with an earth-shattering force. Harris conveys this character with an incredible range, and we understand why and how Winnie chose a more militant path. Harris’s performance goes up notches through out the film, while is difficult to see that same kind of arc or foundation in Nelson.

In a way, Harris’ and Elba’s portrayals balance out one another, but we are aware that we are watching a great man become greater and nobler, but not always aware of internal conflict in him. Shot in contrasting tones of grays and yellows to match the decay of Robben Island prison juxtaposed with the warm hues of the rural South African landscape, Chadwick wants to convey the many worlds that Mandela experienced, but the treatment of the Apartheid regime was often reduced to scenes of massive shooting and bodies falling. While there is no denying the overwhelming violence during that time, a more distinct and affecting portrayal of the brutality during Apartheid-similar to the psychological toll shown in Winnie- would’ve really elevated the film, and given Mandela a stronger foundation.

Ultimately, this is a film anchored by its performances and reverence for the man it portrays. Harris stands out, adding an unorthodox dimension to the routine biopic format. In those ways, it should encourage viewers to reinvest in Mandela and the spirit and rebellion of the anti-Apartheid movement. 

The Weinstein Company will open the film in the USA on November 29. Watch a 20-minute featurette below, which takes viewers inside the making of the film:



This article is related to: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris


Shadow & ActNewsletter