Review: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” After the premiere at Toronto Film Festival in September 2013, the film had a limited release in the United States on November 29, only a week before Mandela passed away on December 5th. While Mandela memorials were hosted around the world and in South Africa, the film received some heartfelt attention back then, but it just can’t live up to Mandela’s legacy, nor for the human-right believers to continue their homage throughout the film.


Based on Mandela’s autobiography, ”Long Walk to Freedom” is a much ado about not much thing than we expected. It is not necessary a disappointment but the chronicle of Mandela’s early life, with marriages and romances that we don’t necessarily need to see, overwhelmed his political engagement later on. The flirtatious romance plots indeed dressed the human side of Mandela alongside all the protests, arrests and imprisonments, but all those TV Soap like plots are taking too much weight from the viewer to admire how Mandela develops into the human-rights legend we all look up to and respect. Unless, a charming sexy personality behind our world’s human-rights hero, is exactly what the director Justin Chadwick and the production wanted us to see?


Anyhow, the film took 16 years to achieve. The producer Anant Singh contacted Mandela while he was in prison but the film looks more like a failure to tell Mandela’s freedom story since we are troubled by the bad makeup and we barely see much of the struggle or self-search during his 27 years of imprisonment and how he inspires the world with all his peaceful human-rights quotes. Does it remind us of another human-rights personality film “The Lady” which failed to tell Aung San Suu Kyi’s story of how she becomes Myanmar’s human-rights leader, what struggle she has been through, and what fight she put on while she was on and off in house arrest during 21 years?


Despite of the bad makeup, Idris Elba gives us a very impressive performance playing Nelson Mandela. Charming, attractive around women and passionate and active as an anti-apartheid revolutionary politician. Naomie Harris is equally notable in incarnating Mandela’s second wife Winnie, who is beautiful, strong and also became a human-rights activist after Mandela’s arrest. Another biography film “Winnie Mandela” premiered at Toronto Film Festival 2011, was released in United States in September 2013 and might give us Winnie’s side of the story. And why not have a look at Terrence Howard’s performance as Nelson Mandela.

– Shumaï Chou