Adapted from the autobiography of Nelson Mandela, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” is a wonderful look into the life a man and a woman who helped to change the world. The film shows the struggle of the African National Congress in South Africa in its fight to end apartheid.
The picture does a phenomenal job showing how the “movement” was both a grassroots political campaign that revolved around Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment and a violent, “eye for an eye” pseudo-military campaign that revolved around Winnie Mandela.
The movie captured the struggle of Nelson Mandela and Winnie Mandela to redeem their nation by sacrificing their marriage. It put into perspective the nature of the relationship between Nelson Mandela and Winnie Mandela, as well as the reasons for their divorce after 31 years of marriage. They had only been married for four years before Nelson Mandela was unjustly incarcerated for 27 years. Additionally, Winnie Mandela served 16 months in solitary confinement.
During the time of their involuntary separation and as a result of their individual prison experiences, they grew into two different people: one who learned to hate and one who learned to forgive. Because of these changes, when Nelson Mandela was finally freed, the couple was married only on paper.
An extremely talented cast and crew were required to make it work on the big screen. The screenplay by William Nicholson was the firm foundation on which the rest of the production securely stood. It was truthful in its content and eloquent in its speech. The screenplay gave the actors the words that allowed them to breathe life into their roles, and it gave director Justin Chadwick the framework to create an evocative and educational film.
Idris Elba brings a flawless, quiet strength to the role of Nelson Mandela. Elba masterfully showed the transition of the physical strength of young Nelson Mandela to the immense strength of character as he aged.
For the role of Winnie Mandela, Naomie Harris proved the perfect casting choice. Her innocent face showed exactly why Nelson fell in love with Winnie. Even as the military leader of the A.N.C. who committed some gruesome acts of violence against their oppressors, her physical beauty never faded, nor was it twisted in the struggle against the hate they faced.
As much for its history lesson as for its brilliant storytelling, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” is a film made enjoyable by its earnest brilliance.