"It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
This is an ambitious film because it centers on an inspiring figure who made history by overcoming hate and uniting the South African nation. The only problem is that the story of Nelson Mandela is just too long to try to encapsulate in a film, and this biopic suffers from it by trying to chronicle his entire life journey. I felt the film rushed through several decades of his life highlighting every major event, but never digging deep enough. The biopic lacks those illuminating elements that Mandela's life had, and it just felt dull and overlong. This is a straightforward biopic with very conventional storytelling, which at times under develops the magnitude of its subject. This long and extensive movie failed to connect with me and I didn't feel it said anything new about a man who I highly admire for being an example of love and forgiveness. I am giving this film an extra star just because he is such an inspiring figure and his story is worth telling every time. Unfortunately this biopic isn't deep or insightful enough and a more appropriate title for this film would be Mandela: Long Watch to Boredom. Based on Mandela's own autobiography the script was adapted by William Nicholson (Gladiator) and the film directed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Bolyen Girl). Despite not delivering the epic film they were aiming for, this is still worth a watch because it centers on this inspiring hero's life who gave the world a lesson in leadership and forgiveness.
The film chronicles Nelson Mandela's (Idris Elba) life journey beginning from his childhood in the village where he was raised and continuing to his days as a lawyer where he becomes involved with a radical political group known as the ANC (African National Congress) which was against the racial separation enforced by the white government. The ANC is soon considered a terrorist group for their involvement in explosions of government buildings, and Mandela is arrested for terrorist charges along with his partner Walter Sisulu (Tony Kgoroge) and other members of the ANC. The film then chronicles his life behind bars as he is separated from his loved ones while his second wife, Winnie (Naomie Harris), continues to support his political group which grows increasingly violent during his long stay in prison. The film later focuses on his eventual release and his election as the first black president of South Africa.
Mandela's life is so extensive and full of meaningful historic moments that this biopic failed in trying to portray all of them in such a short period of time. The story jumped from one highlight of his life to the next in a way where each transition felt forced and rushed. That is what made this film feel dull at times and hard to get emotionally engaged with. It only scratches the surface of Mandela's life and never manages to dig deep enough. It simply covers way too much territory and by doing so it felt like it wasn't saying anything. I do have to give a lot of credit to Idris Elba who gives a powerful performance as Mandela and was especially good at capturing his young years as a fierce activist. Later when he grew older the makeup got in the way and distracted me quite a bit from his performance. I just thought it felt too fake and they should've used an older actor for that role. Elba does succeed in capturing his mannerisms and does excellent voice work. I also enjoyed the soundtrack, especially the Ordinary Love song by U2 during the credits.