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MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM

SYNOPSIS:
A chronicle of Nelson Mandela's (Idris Elba) life from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

Review by Louise Keller:
There are few true heroes in our lifetime and Nelson Mandela's name sits on the top of my list. A giant of a man, who fought for his ideals and vision of a united South Africa, Mandela's story is one that deserving of the utmost care in its telling. That is one of the reasons why Justin Chadwick's film is so satisfying, doing justice to the man and his legacy. But the film never gets bogged down by the enormity of its task or becomes overly earnest. It's a powerhouse of a film: informative, powerful, moving, involving and inspirational with Idris Elba outstanding in the title role.

In covering more than 50 years of Mandela's life - from 1942 (when he was a passionate lawyer fighting against injustice) to 1994 (when he led the ANC to victory in the first multi-racial elections), screenwriter William Nicholson firmly establishes the key characters, allowing us to understand the circumstances and political climate in which Mandela (Elba) becomes a leader. The early years, when violence becomes the only way to fight South Africa's cruel white supremacy policies involve us from the outset and the 1963 Pretoria court room scene, when Mandela makes his moving statement from the dock, stating he is prepared to die for his beliefs, is highly moving. 'I am not a violent man,' Mandela states on several occasions. His mantra that alone, you are small; together you are mighty resonates.

There are many moments when I was brought to tears - like the scene when Mandela is reunited with his wife Winnie (Naomie Harris) after many years and when his 16 year old daughter Zindzi (Lindiwe Matshikiza) who he had not seen since the age of 3, visits him during his 27 year incarceration in jail, many years of which were on Robben Island. The build up to the climactic finish does not disappoint and Elba delivers great understatement as the elder statesman who has learned that anger, violence and revenge are not the answer to the conundrum facing the South African people.

The story is told chronologically: Mandela's relationship with Winnie being one of the key emotional story strands. Harris is superb, morphing from the passionate social worker to the bitter, determined activist who cannot embrace the forgiveness philosophy assumed by her husband. All the cast is excellent and the essence of apartheid is clearly spelt out.

As a child brought up in the Belgian Congo, where segregation between blacks and whites was also a part of life, the veracity of the portrayal triggered memories for me that were all too real.

The film belongs to Elba, whose portrayal of the charming, heroic Mandela is exemplary. Production values are outstanding as are all the performances. Music plays an important role, offering a visceral shortcut into the culture. This is a potent and memorable film about a man whose integrity and courage is unsurpassed. Be inspired.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Nelson Mandela's status as a global hero, the most revered freedom fighter alive (at time of writing), is probably more suited to a mini series, where the filmmakers can do justice to this man, his story and the times. Even 145 minutes isn't enough, and that's taking into account his two decades spent in jail. The limitation impacts on the storytelling, which is perfunctory for the first half of the film and not very involving.

Idris Alba has the challenge to portray Mandela, and he strikes the right note in the middle of the timeline, but we can't quite believe him at the start or at the end, for a combination of physical and character traits. He seems too bulky, for one thing, and the screenplay doesn't tease out his political positions with enough clarity to give us a real sense of the man.

Naomie Harris delivers a complex Winnie Mandela, and the costumes look about right - a major contributor to the portrait, the world having seen her parades.

The occasional use of newsreel footage reminds us of those turbulent years before Mandela's release and add a sense of veracity. The filmed riot scenes are well managed (in an awful, troubling sort of way) and the scenes inside the prison are a sobering reminder of the brutality that went with jail life.

The importance of the events in Mandela's life - the whole world was watching - have seemingly constrained the filmmakers and made some of the key moments feel heavy handed. Yet even so, the film does manage to convey the notion that a single human being can change the world.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (M)
(US, 2013)

CAST: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Terry Pheto, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Jamie Bartlett, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Deon Lotz

PRODUCER: Anant Singh

DIRECTOR: Justin Chadwick

SCRIPT: William Nicholson

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lol Crawley

EDITOR: Rick Russell

MUSIC: Alex Heffes

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Johnny Breedt

RUNNING TIME: 145 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 6, 2013







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