Mandela : Long walk to freedom – Movie Review


To be honest I didn’t even know that a movie called “Mandela – Long walk to freedom” was being made at all until early December when Nelson Mandela passed away and this movie was quoted as one of the better ones made about him. This piqued my interest in the same and I got around to watching it recently.

Being an Indian born well before Cable TV found its way into our homes, I was brought up on a healthy annual diet of “Gandhi” every Independence Day on television. In fact so much so that by the time Cable TV found its way into my home, I used to long to watch this movie at least once in a year. It therefore goes without saying that this movie set the standard that I measure almost all other biographical movies against. And while Mandela is a competent movie (and a reasonably entertaining one at that too) it dabbles with way too many things and is not convincing enough in various aspects.

ANCWhile we can clearly see how the ANC is forced into armed uprising and resorts to violence against the then White Government of South Africa which forms the crux of why Nelson Mandela is arrested in the first place, the viewers never quite completely understand how all of this anger and frustration dies in him, and how he embraces the path of non-violence as a way of life. Is it the prison life and the loneliness that brings about the change, or does he realize the futility of the violence which brings nothing but loss and suffering on both sides, this movie does not quite provide the answers.

Given that the movie is structured in chapters, with the jumps between chapters spanning more than a few years, viewers lack a sense of continuity in the proceedings. How and why do the white jailers and guards become friendly to Mandela and his fellow prisoners, what prompts them to be so informal with these inmates, once again these are things which the film makers miss to let us in on.

What was interesting about this movie though was the fact that it gave almost equal attention to Winnie Mandela as well. Her transformation from a beautiful idealistic young woman who marries Nelson to somebody who is hardened and toughened due to the fact that she and her daughters are targeted by the white establishment is quite believable. In fact, on more than one occasion I felt that I could understand her transformation more than Nelson’s. And to be honest the portrayal of Winnie by Naomie Harris was more believable and likeable than Idris Elba’s portrayal as Nelson Mandela, which at times feels a little exaggerated, especially the walk.

MandelaIn any case, this is quite an Ok movie, not necessarily a must-watch one though.


All images in this post have been sourced from IMDB.


19 thoughts on “Mandela : Long walk to freedom – Movie Review

  1. I completely agree on your larger points. This is just alright – not great. And certainly not half as good as Gandhi.

    I do think Elba equally excellent as Harris though.

  2. It must be challenging to make a biographical film about a very well-known person (who has already been spoken about and written about so much) and yet hold the audience’s interest. ‘Gandhi’ was extremely well-made. With that as a benchmark, an OK is good!

    1. @Proactive Indian, the movie is Ok and does give us an idea into Nelson Mandela the man, but could have done more in terms of letting audiences know his motivations, his reasons for picking up non violence as a means of struggle, etc. That is where the movie lacked, plus it tried doing too much with the given running time.

  3. I didn’t know much about the movie, until now, reading this post.. I was a bit apprehensive about the film.. Hope to watch it soon.. Happy New Year to you..

    1. @pratikshya2, watch the movie without too many expectations and with an open mind and it is quite an Ok movie, that’s all 🙂 Here’s wishing you a very happy new year as well 😀

    1. @Kajal, watch this movie only if you want to know some of the political circumstances and apartheid policies that forced Nelson Mandela to abandon his legal practice and join the African National Congress. This is not quite as inspiring a movie as I thought it would be, that’s all. For somebody who lived such a glorious life, this movie somehow doesn’t seem to do enough justice to him.

  4. Personally, I found more respect for Elba as an actor from what I saw in this movie. I haven’t seen the entire movie yet, so I will reserve my opinion till then.

    1. @Santulan, no doubt Idris Elba’s acting is good in this movie, but the problem is with the material itself. In my opinion there simply isn’t enough meat or stuff in it for Elba to do too much with it. But do watch the movie and let me know what you think of it.

  5. Well your review gives a different side of the movie, mostly people have recommended me this one. But then because you compared it with Gandhi and hence perhaps it did not come out as good. But jairam the man Mandela is something I always love to read and watch about 🙂


    1. @Richa, trust me on this point, if you like Mandela the person, the individual, the leader, then honestly this movie doesn’t do justice to him at all. At best this is a snapshot of him at various points in time without necessarily having a continuous view of his gradual shift towards non violence as a means of negotiation.

      It just gives viewers a basic idea of Mandela, the politician, that’s all. Nothing more, nothing less. However, it does give a good idea of why Winnie Mandela is the way she is.

    1. @Shilpa, given that the movie released in theatres only now it will probably take at least 6 months more to hit TV screens 🙂

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