Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Blu-ray Review

The idea of making a biopic on Nelson Mandela seemed an inevitable step. There had been a 1987 HBO movie (with Danny Glover and Alfred Woodard), an Academy Award-nominated 1996 documentary and a biographical movie on the 1995 Rugby World Cup called INVICTUS, but there had yet to be a full-on biopic on Mandela.

Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

And so here is MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM, based on Mandela’s 1995 autobiography. The movie opens with the young boy partaking in Xosha rituals that will make him a man. Narration declares he wants to make his family proud. And then there he is as a lawyer. And then as a boxer. And then as a husband to Evelyn Mase (Terry Pheto, TSOTSI), who believed she was being fooled around on. And then as an activist for racial equality, spouting lines like, “Why should we obey their laws? We do not have a vote. Let’s defy their unjust laws.” And then as the husband to Winnie Madikizela (Naomie Harris, SKYFALL). And then as an inmate on Robben Island. And then as the President of South Africa.

Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Most (if not all) of this we know because it’s all well documented and the man just recently passed away. Those not entirely educated on the life of Mandela will be able to tell just how the entire story will play out because they’ve seen biographies like this before. Like so many before it, Justin Chadwick’s (THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, THE FIRST GRADER) MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM is one where the life is far more extraordinary than the movie that depicts it.

Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Mandela led a fascinating and controversial life, but you’re better off reading about it from his own words. That MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM is so safe and by-the-books is disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. He’s one of those figures that is so large in scope that cinematic takes on his life should limit themselves to portions. (That’s why it’s logical to fear that the Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic will be a broadly stroked mess, if and when it ever goes into production.) There’s no denying that this is the sort of story that audiences wanted to see, but it seems that the studio cared less about paying tribute to the leader and more about beating the competition to the rights and commissioning U2 to write a manipulative song to send audiences out of the theater to.

Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

At the heart of the movie is Idris Elba, who may not look as much like Mandela as Morgan Freeman does, but has the sort of intensity and determination to portray the man as he should be. While Elba was a major player on THE WIRE, has Golden Globe nominations and has appeared in major Hollywood productions such as THOR and PACIFIC RIM, it could be MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM that truly lands him the major roles he deserves.

Mandela died at the age of 95, just one week after the movie premiered in his native South Africa.

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video: 2.35:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM looks excellent throughout, with strong details and accurate colors for the duration.

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The movie also sounds great, with clean dialogue and depth that adds to the effect of scenes such as those in the prisons and those with gunfire.

Feature commentary with director Justin Chadwick: Chadwick delivers a solid track, in which he discusses his intentions, the cast and more.

Mandela: The Leader You Know, The Man You Didn’t (22:04): Chadwick, Idris Elba, Naomie Harris and more sit down to discuss “catching the spirit” of Mandela and the actual events featured in the movie.

Behind the Scenes Featurettes (30:20): There are four here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Production Design,” “Costumes & Makeup,” “Special Effects” and “Music & Sound.”

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