'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' has its faults, though it is held together by a stunning performance from Idris Elba.
Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom, the Weinstein's biopic based on the autobiography of South African President Nelson Mandela, has received mixed reviews from critics ahead of its release this weekend, though Idris Elba's stunning performance as the President should see him in line for nominations during awards' season.
Idris Elba [L] as Nelson Mandela and Naomie Harris [R] as Winnie Mandela
Justin Chadwick's movie chronicles the early life of Mandela, his coming-of-age, education and the 27 years he spent on Robben Island, as well as his attempt to rebuild the country's once segregated society.
From the reviews, the consensus is that Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a solid if unremarkable movie with an outstanding lead performance from Elba.
"Mr. Elba is completely convincing as a natural leader with a ferocious drive," said Stephen Holden of the New York Times.
"Elba has so inhabited the character that you might be stunned to see photos of the real man, during credits, and realize the extensive physical differences," wrote Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press.
"In those moments when Elba shows the doubts, compromises and complications that make the man, we get glimpses of a life truly lived," said Peter Travers of Rolling Stone.
"Profits from Idris Elba's remarkable take on Mandela, which renders his greatness palpably real," said Robert Levin of amNew York.
During an interview with Nightline, Elba explained how he attempted to bring the 'real Nelson Mandela' to the screen,
"We were given the task to go ahead and make that as real as possible on screen, being a ladies' man and being a man who was not humble, a very ambitious, almost egotistical man," he said."
Elba said Mandela was "in quite messy relationships as a young man," adding, "These are factors that you don't even want to put in the same sentence about Mr. Mandela the older statesman.But this is the truth, and I felt the responsibility to be truthful, but also respectful."
Before the movie had screened earlier in the year, bookmakers had Elba - still perhaps best known for playing Stringer Bell on The Wire - as the big favorite to win Best Actor at the Oscars in March 2014. That favouritism has subsided and he now sits at around 8/1 (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tom Hanks, Matthew McConuaghey and Robert Redford are all shorter) though this is largely because of the middling reviews for the movie itself - something that did little to stop Meryl Streep winning the Oscar for playing Margaret Thatcher in another Weinstein movie, The Iron Lady in 2012.
Let's not forget that the Academy loves a historical biopic.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is out in the U.S. today.