Nelson Mandela's extraordinary journey to becoming one of history's most iconic figures is brought to life in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The film chronicles Nelson Mandela's early life, education, marriage and 27-year prison sentence before becoming South Africa's first democratically elected president. Working to rebuild the country's once segregated society, Mandela's greatest struggles lead to his greatest triumph.
There have been numerous films, television programs, and documentaries that have discussed the life of Nelson Mandela. Not too mention the treasure trove of books, biographies, and interviews you can read and watch detailing his beliefs and politics. And Justin Chadwick’s narrative film ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom‘ is yet another addition to the ever expanding universe of Mandela. Adapted by William Nicholson from Mandela’s autobiography of the same name, this two and a half hour film seems like a long, slow walk indeed, with too much to cover and some cheese sprinkled here and there. Although actor Idris Elba’s performance of Mandela is one of the best I’ve ever seen, this long walk could have been better.
We all know, or we should all know Mandela’s story by now. He was an iconic, great, and one of the most important people not only for South Africa, but for the world. His unjust 27-year prison sentence is just a small part of the film, as we first meet Mandela in the frontier hills of South Africa being born. But as quickly as he is born we skip ahead to see him as a young lawyer, representing his clients, and even winning cases.
But we soon see how South Africa turns into a white supremacist state, where all blacks have very few rights and are forced to move to shoddy housing away from everyone. Of course we see his rise as leader in the ANC (African National Congress), and a few of their plots to overthrow the government. It is here, where we see Mandela’s first marriage go down the tubes due to an affairs, as well as his work. Mandela and his fellow comrades are eventually captured and unjustly sentenced to life in prison.
From this point, we slowly see Mandela age, all the while still having a strong presence, as he can move stone, rock, as well as people’s views on freedom. His own views change from taking a violent approach to becoming an equal citizen to a peaceful approach. And Elba does this with grace and ease, as we believe everything he says. His body language and presence are awe-inspiring. His second wife Winnie (Naomie Harris) is a powerhouse here, as we see her take a separate path from Mandela, as she rallies people behind her and her husband’s views, although her views are strictly violent, whereas Nelson’s are to take a peaceful approach.
What this movie has going for it is the performances by Elba and Harris. They really do carry this movie, but only so far. There are some elements that Chadwick added that seem to hit us on the nose to much and should have made us feel sad with tears, but this never truly happens, and it comes across as corny. This is not the ultimate Nelson Mandela movie, but it might be the ultimate performance of Mandela yet. For those of you who don’t know a lot about this powerful figure in history, this is a good starting point, but if you're somewhat familiar, then I’d look elsewhere, although seeing Edris Elba as Mandela is a must.
'Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom' has a good 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This is a very beautiful film to watch. The warm colors pop off screen and gives the film a very nice feel, despite its subject matter. The gorgeous landscapes are shown beautifully here with every detail showing up from each blade of grass to each rock on the mountains looking crystal clear. The detail is very sharp and vivid, with well-defined closeups of the actor's faces that show each scar, drop of blood, and makeup blemish very nicely.
The wider shots are just as sharp and detailed and give the movie a lot of depth. The colors are very well saturated with gorgeous browns, greens, blues, and reds throughout. Despite being confined to a prison, the landscapes of Africa look beautiful. The skin tones are natural and the black levels are deep and inky, which is a great thing in the night time and darker lit scenes. There is some minor aliasing here and there, but it is not distracting enough to write home about. This is a solid video presentation.
This release comes with a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand, even with their beautiful accents. It is always perfectly balanced in the center channel. The sound effects and ambient noises are robust and full, and often spill through the surrounds, during the larger crowd scenes, such as when Mandela is giving speeches in front of hundreds of people or the many people who are serving time in the jail cells.
The score and music are also always full and adds to each emotion and dramatic moment during the film. The directionality is very good here as well. The LFE is excellent and the dynamic range is very wide here, with the bass rumbling during some of the action scenes when Mandela stages war on his country. This is a great audio presentation.
Audio Commentary with Director Justin Chadwick - Justin delivers a very informative commentary as he discusses how he shot the film, the make up process with Elba, and how some of the actors sat down with the real people before they started filming. He also goes into some of the stories that happened on set with some of the extra and actors. Justin also talks about some of the history during the time period and how he transferred that to film. If you're a fan of the film, then give this a listen.
Behind the Scenes Featurette (HD, 31 mins) - Here are four different featurettes, which you can watch them all together, that talk about different aspects of the making of the movie. There is a production design segment, a makeup and costume section, a special effects sequence, and the music of the film. Each one has interviews with the cast and crew talking about each particular part of the movie with some behind the scenes footage, and clips from the movie. there was a lot of hard work that went in to making this.
Mandela: The Leader You Know, The Man You Didn't (HD, 22 mins) - The cast and crew, along with other actors, musicians, and news personalities discuss Mandela's life. Clips from the movie are interspersed between the interviews as the cast and crew talk about making the movie as well.
Tribute Video Gallery (HD, 17 mins) - There are 7 different clips of famous people talking about Nelson Mandela here, which you can view separately or all together. These famous actors, musicians, and news personalities talk about their encounters with Mandela or how he changed their lives. These are basically the full segments from the interviews from the above extra.
'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' isn't a great film, although Elba and the other actors do a phenomenal job and the film looks beautiful. It just drags in several spots for too long and doesn't focus on certain things as much as it should. The video and audio presentations are great with some decent informative extras. While this film isn't my favorite movie on Mandela, it's still worth a look for those who don't know much about this great man. And maybe after viewing this, they will check out some documentaries on Mandela.