Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (12A)
How was this film NOT nominated for a BAFTA? Stunning, Stupendous, Magnificent, Awesome, Brilliant. If you haven’t seen it, make every effort to on DVD/Bluray when it comes out, or Netflix or whatever you watch.
Idris Elba is Nelson Mandela – mannerisms, posture, looks, and especially that voice, a long way from London’s maverick Copper Luther. Naomie Harris puts in a stirring performance as the increasingly embittered and hate-filled Winnie Mandela. Two superb British actors and not a sniff from BAFTA.
The film could be said to be a (much grittier) prequel to “Invictus”, ending where that film starts, with Mandela’s release from prison and election victory. It begins in the Xhosa tribal homeland with Mandela going through the rite of passage that makes a young boy a man, and follows his life from then onwards, portraying a brilliant politician, statesman and leader of the anti-apartheid movement, but also a deeply flawed husband and father who neglects his loved ones “for the cause.”
Coming just after Mandela died, this film gives us a good insight into who he was, and why he made the political decisions that he did, although I couldn’t help comparing him with that other champion of equal rights, Martin Luther King Jr, who achieved much the same without resorting to violence, even when he himself was murdered.
The musical score was excellent, with some songs from my youth (!) and live footage from the time being interspersed with the film itself in ways that reminded you that this is not a work of fiction, but a representation of something that really happened.
If you have a group that likes watching, and discussing, films, this one is a must, with so many issues to reflect upon – equality, loyalty, the nature and cost of leadership, sacrifice, suffering and our response to it, and the question of forgiveness, presented brilliantly in the progression of both main characters who start in the same position but end up far apart.
And there’s a message that we need to hear as Church, from the ANC of all people – “Alone we have no power, together we have the power to change the world.”
The Revd Martin Ceaser is minister of Crowthorne Baptist Church.