We’ve seen a lot of Nelson Mandela in movies. IMDB lists 21 different actors who’ve played the role. But despite depictions by Morgan Freeman, Sidney Poitier, and more, we’ve rarely gotten the sort of look at him that we get in the trailer to Justin Chadwick’s Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom.
In the trailer, Mandela isn’t the grandfatherly figure with a white tag-team partner (whether it’s Matt Damon joining with Freeman in Invicta or Poitier partnering with Michael Caine in Mandela and de Klerk) in an attempt to heal the lingering wounds of apartheid in South Africa: rather, Elba and Mandela depict the revolutionary as a fiery young leader.
What we see is a complex look at the early highlights of Mandela’s life and career: He courts Naomie Harris as Winnie, walks with his kids, stands up against white South African soldiers, rushes the gates of a “Europeans only” building, defies a (white) judge, carries a gun, and learns how to make a bomb–which we see detonate.
Over a soundtrack of Somali-Canadian rapper K’naan’s “Waving Flag,” Elba is shown doing his time in prison and looks every inch the revolutionary and radical that’s often been boiled out of other depictions of Mandela. With the man himself in poor health, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom looks to offer a portrait of the man that’s more complex than the easy lionization that typically accompanies the fading years of a man many would call “great.”