I have previously written about my adoration for Idris Elba’s wonderful acting chops, and this review is no different. This biographical movie about Nelson Mandela and his inspiring story manages to keep the audience entralled and interesting for the entire 141 minute runtime. While watching this movie I also realized how little I actually know about Nelson Mandela and the apartheid. As interesting as much of the film was to me, it seemed to suffer from an awkward sense of distance. The film seemed to follow the story so attentively that it forgot that this was a movie in which the audience needed to be invited along.
The film has a few characters here and there, but there is absolutely no confusion about who the protagonist is. Idris Elba plays Nelson Mandela and just like with any other role, Idris transforms himself into Mandela. Elba’s portrayal is absolutely wonderful and provides so many beautifully acted moments of character and nuance. Although the screenplay wavers a little throughout the movie there is a wonderful sense of stability as well as character development in Elba’s portrayal. I guess what I’m trying to say is “Idris Elba was fantastick!”. Playing opposite of Elba is Naomie Harris as Mandela’s second wife and political activist, Winnie Mandela. Though her part is not huge, she still manages to craft an intricate character who has absolutely wonderful interactions with her onscreen husband. The two actors have great contrsts too and create for two very interesting sides to a very interesting story. Tony Kgoroge and Riaad Moosa play Mandela’s two accomplices and jail friends. And although their individual characters are never truly fleshed out and don’t have significan screentime, they have great chemistry with each other and with Elba, so they serve their purpose and they do so well.
But now for the sad part: the screenplay. Although I’m sure the screenplay is very accurate and attentive to the details, there is simply no denying that the exposition is rushed and that the plot is awkwardly paced. And sure, being accurate is great, but this really is a movie and therefore the screenplay has to present the actual events in a more theatrical way, because this movie has a very significant lack of connection to the audience. The direction however is wonderful, especially in the more gritty scenes, with understanding for the characters and for human behavior. The cinematography and soundtrack are also great and help complement each other. The last few shots of the film especially are beautiful to look at and help drive the movie home.
I advise that everybody watch this film, even if its screenplay is a little awkward and too close to the truth. The real beauty of this film truly is Idris Elba’s performance and the real-life events that inspired the movie. And for anybody who’s genuinly interested in history this movie is vividly detailed and fairly easy to follow.
Best Aspect- Idris Elba
Worst Aspect- The way too true screenplay