Director Justin Chadwick’s study of Nelson Mandela “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” is not only a long walk, but also a long movie.
The story, which was adapted from Mandela’s 1995 autobiography, spends most of the first half of the movie explaining Mandela’s (Idris Elba-The Wire) transition from local lawyer to ANC activist. Outraged by the injustices done to his clients in court, Mandela is recruited by the ANC and after the Sharpville massacre of 1960, where armed police unloaded on a group of protesters, Mandela turns militant. There is no glossing over the fact in the movie that Mandela was not exactly the pristine icon some believed him to be. He was a womanizer, who neglected his first wife and son, while embracing a doctrine of armed resistance which included sabotage and the bombing of government buildings. Mandela justifies his actions by claiming, “We no longer accept the authority of a state that wages war on its own people.”
Unfortunately for Mandela and his inner clan the state does not agree with their methods. They are apprehended, sentenced to life in prison, and shuffled off to Robben Island, to spend the rest of their days breaking rock. (Will someone please explain to me why they break rock in prison? Why don’t they do something useful, like plant crops.)
While Mandela is in prison, his second wife Winnie, picks up the cause where Nelson left off; but she veers off course becoming involved with a group of militant thugs that threaten civil war. After 27 years in prison, the government of South Africa now needs Mandela’s help. They ease his restrictions, but can they convince him to save the country. Most of us know the ending, but this is still a compelling story. See it.
Reviewers Note: On December 5th 2013, the night of the premier of Justin Chadwick’s “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” Nelson Mandela passed away. (Runtime 146 mins.)
My Rating: 4 of 5 Long Walks