For all the Weinstein’s sins, at least they didn’t bump up Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom from its slated wide release date to profit from Nelson Mandela’s recent death. While there’s an issue of taste behind that resistance, there’s also the problem that Justin Chadwick’s film ironically feels like the victim of a rush job, something that may very well have been as influential in the decision to hold firm on Dec. 25.
Little doubt remains that Idris Elba and Naomi Harris did everything that was asked of them in bringing Nelson and Winnie Mandela to the screen, and still the film overall is only so-so. Moving quickly between snippets of the South African leaders’ actions without developing much of its core thoughts, William Nicholson’s adaptation of Mr. Mandela’s autobiography assumes that its reverential subject matter is so well known that any decent rendering will be sufficient. Yes, the visuals are high-quality and the central message of the long struggle for peace and progress comes through, but this Cliff’s Notes version moves almost too quickly between these snippets. At its worst, camera movements and edits in the film’s more violent moments go so far as to recall a music video, which surely wasn’t Chadwick’s intention. A mediocre telling of a difficult life, Scenes from the Life of Nelson Mandela may have been a more appropriate title for this film, whose U2/Danger Mouse song over the end credits might be its greatest accomplishment.
Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence and disturbing images, sexual content and brief strong language.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.