Starring: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Tony Kgrorge, Riaad Moosa, Zolani Mkiva, Simo Mogwaza
Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom is a reverential look at Nelson Mandela’s life, from his crossing into manhood in his home village to his career as a lawyer and his increasing participation in the civil rights fight for his people during Apartheid in South Africa, his 27 years in prison and culminating in his election to president of his country.
Based on his own memoir, the book doesn’t sugarcoat Mandela’s early life. A ladies man, Mandela (Idris Elba) marries and starts a family, all the while fooling around on the side. His first wife leaves him, and as he starts publicly speaking about more rights for blacks, he attracts the attention of a lovely young woman, Winnie (Naomie Harris). She shares his vision of an integrated homeland and they marry. She stands by her husband as he is first harrassed, then arrested, for his views.
When he realizes he is endangering his wife and daughters, Mandela goes underground and starts using violence to try to make his party’s point.
He and his friends are finally rounded up and arrested and tried as terrorists, which carried the death penalty.
Rather than martyr the men, the judge sentences them to life in prison and puts them in the harshest prison in the country.
The years in prison pass slowly and are shown with rare letters about growing daughters and rare visits with his wife.
The age makeup is iffy in the middle ages, but gets back on track as he gets older.
Mandela is moved to a little nicer prison as his wife keeps the party on track and Mandela in their thoughts until finally he is moved into a house where members of the government start talking to him to try to negotiate some sort of peace.
Elba does a fine job of playing the statesman and Harris is wonderful as Winnie Mandela.
This movie actually does more to tell her story than Mandela’s. When the two realize not only have they grown apart emotionally, but ethically, it is heartbreaking and explains the divorce very well.
Mandela’s address to the nation to calm the rioting is powerful, especially as he pretty much announces his intention to run for president in the same speech.
It is a sad coincidence Mandela died before this movie was released here. With all the news coverage we learned this history from news reports, it makes this movie feel like it is repeating things already learned, but Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom also fills in a lot of personal information left out of most stories.
It’s a reverential look at the man’s life with a solid story and good acting.