Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

This scattershot bio-pic covers everything from Mandela's early child- hood as a Xhosa born to the royal Thembu family in apartheid South Africa, through his revolutionary role with the African National Congress (ANC), his time in prison, and up to his election as President of a multi- racial South Africa. For some reason it seems to skip the international honors he was awarded, e.g., The Nobel Peace Prize, but offers a rich story arc of his wife Winnie.

We watch:
  • Idris Elba ("Luther") as Nelson Mandela, a cunning lawyer, a cautious revolutionary and a crafty prisoner. He was arrested for his ANC activities, for which he was given the death sentence, commuted to life. He served 27 years in two different prisons during which his wife Winnie and the ANC launched an effective, international "Free Mandela" campaign, augmented by trade embargoes and other pressures brought to bear on the apartheid government of South Africa.
  • Naomie Harris ("Skyfall") is Winnie Mandela, his second wife; mother of his two daughters; an intelligent and proactive partici- pant in his life. After being imprisoned, she became a dedicated terrorist who vilified her white oppressors. Her rabid activism became a liability to him later in life.
As a fan of Idris Elba ever since "The Wire," I would be happy to watch him read a telephone book, so even though this gave him plenty to do, I would have appreciated a better script. William Nicholson based his screenplay on Mandela's autobiography, but tried (unwisely) to make this film encompass his entire life. Director Justin Chadwick ("The Other Boleyn Girl") uses flashbacks and other devices to fill in the blanks.

This movie had the mixed blessing of being released 20 days after Mandela's death at age 95, so there was more than uncommon interest in his life.
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