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.
While 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.
In 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.