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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom - Film Review

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Published December 29th 2013
Nelson and Winnie Mandela: Two Roads Diverge

It may be that, given enough time and distance, the definitive account of Mandela's life will be filmed, almost certainly in two or three films.

"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" is not that account how could it be, with 141 minutes to play with?

In many ways, although it tries to cover a great deal of ground (including Sharpeville and the Rivionia trials) its main appeal is in its depiction of the divergent paths chosen by Winnie Mandela and her husband.

As the film depicts it, Nelson Mandela, after initial hardships and humiliations in prison, has time to establish his dignity, to study his Africaans opponents, to work out a strategy for the independence of his people, and, in his absence, to become a legend.

Winnie, played by Naomie Harris, does not have the luxury of detachment. Harassed and harried by the South African army and Police, betrayed by informers, she moves more towards violence and hatred, and, when Nelson Mandela is released, Winnie is impatient with someone whom she sees as out of touch, possibly suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and too old to be relevant.

Naomie Harris captures the passion and the fury of the revolutionary firebrand. Mandela, played by Idris Elba, has become more cerebral, more strategic, and more pragmatic.

Idris Elba does not try to become Mandela they do not look alike but he does capture his spoken cadences, and somehow exudes the presence of the man.

"Long Walk to Freedom" may be disjointed and episodic but its episodes capture significant rites of passage for Nelson and Winnie Mandela and for a nation.

It is well worth seeing.

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Why? To get to know a legend
Where: Now showing
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