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Movie Review

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and disturbing images, sexual content and brief strong language.

Reviewed by: Spencer Schumacher
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Biography Drama
Length:
2 hr. 21 min.
Year of Release:
2013
USA Release:
October 9, 2013 (festival)
November 29, 2013 (limited)
December 25, 2013 (wide)
DVD: March 18, 2014
Copyright, The Weinstein Company click photos to ENLARGE
Relevant Issues
Copyright, The Weinstein Company

RACISM—What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

Racism, Racial Issues and Christianity
Get biblical answers to racial hot-topics. Where did the races come from? How did skin color come about? Why is it important to have a biblical foundation for such issues?

Is the film’s depiction of Nelson Mandela and the ANC accurate?

“Talking about God, Nelson says he doesn’t see Him helping their people and only sees Him helping their white repressors.”

Reviews of other films about Apartheid
From One Blood: The Story of Gerrit Wolfaardt

From One Blood: The Story of Gerrit Wolfaardt” (2003)

Final Solution” (2002)

Catch a Fire” (2006)

In My Country” a.k.a. Country of My Skull (2005)

Stander” (2004)

Invictus” (2009)

Featuring: Idris ElbaNelson Mandela
Naomie HarrisWinnie Madikizela
Tony Kgoroge … Walter Sisulu
Riaad Moosa … Ahmed Kathrada
Zolani Mkiva … Raymond Mhlaba
Simo Mogwaza … Andrew Mlangeni
Fana Mokoena … Govan Mbeki
Thapelo Mokoena … Elias Motsoaledi
Jamie Bartlett … James Gregory
Deon Lotz … Kobie Coetzee
Terry Pheto … Evelyn Mase
Zikhona Sodlaka … Nosekeni
S’Thandiwe Kgoroge … Albertina Sisulu
Tshallo Sputla Chokwe … Oliver Tambo
Sello Maake … Albert Luthuli
James Cunningham … George Bizos
Zenzo Ngqobe … Patrick Lekota
Gys de Villiers … President De Klerk
David Butler … Colonel Badenhorst
more »
Director: Justin Chadwick
Producer: Videovision Entertainment
Distant Horizon
more »
Distributor: The Weinstein Company

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart” —Nelson Mandela.

If cinema is truly a universal language than director Justin Chadwick and writer William Nicholson, in their biographical epic “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”, are trying to show Nelson Mandela was more than a hero, he was a man, a man that spoke in a language that everyone could understand. Beyond the myth, beyond the legend, they are going beyond broad strokes and painting a picture of a man with faults, flaws and even failures.

“Long Walk to Freedom” is the biopic tale of Nelson Mandela’s life journey from his childhood to his ascension to the presidency of South Africa. The movie is based on the Mandela autobiography, and, from what I’ve read, follows the book pretty faithfully.

As most biopics go, the story is told in a linear fashion following the trajectory of Mandela’s life, and, like a historic time line, hits the key points of his life and moves forward from one historic event to another. It starts briefly with his childhood, his years as a lawyer, then moves chronologically to the events leading up to his arrest, his 27 years in prison, and his election as South Africa’s first democratically elected black President.

The biggest criticism against most biopics is that they tend to cast their subjects in a very soft and flattering light. Biopics tend to gloss over or purposely avoid showing their subject in anything that could possibly stain their subject in the slightest bit. Given the larger-than-life subject for this film, the filmmakers had a daunting task, however, the film does do a credible job in portraying Mandela as a living, breathing human being, not perfect, but continually striving.

The main reason for this portrayal is lead actor Idris Elba who plays the titular role. Most biopics struggle with finding the balance in presenting their subject as a hero without elevating them to the status of martyr. Elba strikes a fine balance, and presents Mandela as an empathetic hero who has his faults. We see the struggles he faces, particularly with his wife Winnie, played by Naomie Harris. The story doesn’t shy away from their domestic quarrels and arguments, often times showing how Mandela could be unkind and sometimes even cruel towards her.

The film is relatively light in material a general audience might find offensive. There is a brief flash of male frontal nudity during a scene where men remove their clothes to go swimming. Also, there is a prison scene where prisoners are made to remove their clothes.

Much of the action during the second half of the film involves political unrest, and there are scenes of rioting and acts of mass violence. Some of the more intense scenes involve women and children being gunned down by military police. There is a disturbing scene of a man being hacked to death with a machete, subsequently tied up, doused with gasoline and set on fire.

Profanity: There are a handful of instances of the s-word, but the most objectionable language is the numerous utterances of racial epithets and derogatory terms.

With awards season just around the corner, there is little doubt that “Mandela” is on the short list of movies that will be nominated for golden statues. With a number of films this year, vying for best picture, Oscar® will more than likely look over “Mandela,” however it would be a shame if they chose to ignore Idris Elba and his tremendous performance in bringing a true-life hero to the silver screen.

Violence: Heavy to extreme / Profanity: Heavy—f-word (1), “hell” (1), “damn” (1), s-words (4) / Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments from non-viewers
Neutral—I cannot understand why we lift up as heroes leaders who have espoused torture and murder (via the barbaric practice of “NECKLACING,” described below) of their political opponents! The Mandelas, whatever noble intentions they MAY have had, were tyrants and murderers in the end, as they allowed/espoused “necklacing,” and there is no excuse for it. Please read the WIKIPEDIA quotes here: “NECKLACING… is the practice of summary execution and torture carried out by forcing a rubber tire, filled with petrol, around a victim’s chest and arms, and setting it on fire. The victim may take up to 20 minutes to die, suffering severe burns in the process.

In 1986 WINNIE MANDELA, then-wife of the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, stated, “With our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country” which was widely seen as an implicit endorsement of necklacing…” Folks, you don’t DO or APPROVE this type of thing (i.e., “necklacing”) without at least the silent “agreement” of your spouse. Please, LET'S STOP MAKING and ATTENDING movies about tyrants who misuse power just as badly as the tyrants they propose to replace.
—Mark August, age 56 (USA)

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