Long Walk To Freedom is a biopic about Nelson Mandela and serves as a good introduction to the man’s life. We get to see Mandela take his first steps as an ANC activist, the horror of Sharpeville, his imprisonment at Robben Island, his relationship with Winnie. It’s all there in a little over two hours.
Director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) and writer William Nicholson (Gladiator) have made sure that the Long Walk To Freedom is not a leisurely stroll through the man’s life. The scene where we watch a young Nelson Mandela and his fellow ANC activists storm into a train station for example, is riveting and they manage to keep the pace up throughout the entirety of the movie. It makes for a well-spent two and a half hours with a solid performance by Idris Elba (even though he doesn’t look much like Mandela).
But the subject matter is simply too large to be covered completely in two hours, which makes that the movie lacks depth. It’s as if during his 27 years in prison, Mandela’s biggest achievement was that he got to let the prisoners wear long trousers instead of shorts. We’re talking about a man who changed an entire nation. It’s understandable though… this is a movie and not a documentary so you want to keep things entertaining. But like I said before, it’s an introduction. If you want to know more about Nelson Mandela’s life and his impact on South Africa, you’d be better off reading a book or two.