Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
This is a conventional biopic with little originality in the way it presents its story. It takes Nelson Mandela from his time as a fiery young activist through his long incarceration in Robben Island and his emergence as the elder statesman of the anti-apartheid movement. This is very much an authorized life, and takes in such a broad span of history that it can do little more in terms of storytelling than join up the dots. It does so effectively enough, though director Justin Chadwick’s (The Other Boleyn Girl ) rather pedestrian narrative and the often melodramatic tone can be annoying. One thinks of the much more light-footed Invictus, and by comparison Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom takes itself far too seriously. What holds the audience through the history lesson is the towering performance of Idris Elba (probably best known for his role as Stringer Bell in the TV series The Wire) and Naomie Harris, who both have enormous presence in their roles as Nelson and Winnie Mandela, providing an emotional core that almost manages to compensate for the lack of real insight in the screenplay.