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‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom:' Elba’s compelling performance

By Mandela Wells Columnist


Nelson Mandela is one of the world’s most respected and recognizable figures. He devoted his life to stopping a system of oppression known as apartheid, one of South Africa’s bleakest periods in history. Mandela was able to finally unite the country and end 46 years of apartheid.

The Movie “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” based off of the book “Long Walk to Freedom,” brings to life the visceral and brutal times that Mandela wrote about along with giving details of his own life.

Mandela is played strongly by Idris Elba (“The Wire,” “Pacific Rim,” “RocknRolla”). Although he does not resemble the South African leader, he still embodied Mandela as a strong-willed man who stood by his ideals and wanted to lead Africa in a new direction.

Elba’s voice and physical presence made up for the fact that he did not look like Mandela. Along with showing apartheid, the movie very nicely portrays his marriages with Evelyn Mase, played by Terry Pheto (“Tsotsi”), and his highly publicized marriage with his second wife Winnie Mandela, well-acted by Naomie Harris (“Skyfall,” “28 Days Later”). Harris in the film portrayed a very well loving, emotional and also strong-willed idealist in Winnie Mandela.

Nelson Mandela’s marriage to Winnie was one of the film’s key areas of focus. That particular marriage was depicted in the film as starting out as a strong, passionate commitment that very slowly shattered as the two began to go about change. Ultimately, they got divorced.

The director Justin Chadwick (“The Other Boleyn Girl”) captured the switches in ideals and beliefs of the two. There is a scene where we see Winnie in the jail cell look mentally broken. She is refusing to answer any questions regarding her husband and is once again punished by the officers. The scene was impactful, as Chadwick gave us a look into the horrible treatments that made Winnie Mandela hate the whites in South Africa.

The scenes that showed Mandela’s time in Robben Island were quite surprising and almost heart breaking. The iconic shot of Mandela in jail looking out the window was done beautifully, as Elba made it so we could feel and understand what Mandela knows: A lot is going to change in the next 27 years in some way, shape or form.

Chadwick’s cinematography was incredible. He perfectly portrayed scenes that depicted the brutality and darkness of Apartheid with great camera angles. There were intense scenes of violence with AK-47s and Africans throwing bombs at tanks.

This film is very much like a history lesson, but it is also a brutal, intense account of a dark time in African history. Reading “Long Walk to Freedom” definitely makes you more keen to see how the depiction turns out and inevitably makes it more enjoyable to watch. Elba’s impactful performance of the scenes from the book is worth viewing, as is the marvelous performance by Harris.


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