Posted by: greercn | January 12, 2014

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

Stunning performances by Idris Elba and Naomie Harris lift this biopic to being extraordinary.

As the young Nelson Mandela, Elba manages to utterly transform himself. Morgan Freeman’s Nelson in “Invictus” is physically closer to the real-life Mandela and even excellent prosthetics and hair work fail to match Freeman’s look, as the older Mandela.

But that voice! And those gestures! Elba manages to make you forget you are watching a movie dramatisation.

“Long Walk” takes a long time to watch (151 minutes) but it still feels like you are being rushed through events at breakneck speed.

Naomie Harris (as second wife Winnie) paints an unusually sympathetic picture of a controversial figure. Winnie Mandela kept the focus of the international press firmly on Nelson through his 27 years in prison. It’s probably thanks to Winnie that Nelson was seen as a natural leader of South Africa, as times changed.

Yet being arrested constantly, this film says, caused her to change. In South Africa, she is still revered as Mama Africa.

The film disposes of wife one in minutes and concentrates on Nelson and Winnie’s love story, fraught with political dangers. The ANC and the trial are background figures to the central couple. In tone, the film is slightly too respectful to really have universal appeal, but those who have followed South Africa’s turbulent modern history will be fascinated.

Even knowing what happened next did not detract from the enjoyment my South African-born friend and I had while watching this. A very full Stratford East Picturehouse stayed silent, but buzzed with chat as soon as the end credits started.

They are long credits. Even the credits for the excellent soundtrack are very long. Everyone is slightly too clean to really be in prison and there is something sanitised about the whole movie.

Even with these minor quibbles, Idris Elba and Naomie Harris are utterly mesmerising. See this movie.


  1. Good review Greer. The performances from both Elba and Harris are great, but the movie itself wasn’t anything spectacular.

  2. That’s true but it feels more significant if you care about the recent history of South Africa. Probably, you need to have your feelings invested in those struggles to get the most out of it. Otherwise, it’s just another biopic. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

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