Movie Review: Based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, this chronicle of Mandela’s life spans his childhood in a rural village in Mvezo to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Mandela is an impressive figure. Actor Elba does him justice, but Mandela’s life is grand to a point that trying to capture it all in one movie is overwhelming. Justin Chadwick (“The Other Boleyn Girl,” 2008) and scripter William Nicholson (“Gladiator,” 2000) earnestly try.
The bulk of this story revolves around Mandela’s relationship with his second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, played excellently by Harris (“Skyfall,” 2012), which is more than noteworthy. The film shows their relationship as one of tribulations and terror. They were apart for most of their marriage. This film shows how they operated separately — briefly together — to end South Africa’s apartheid from roughly 1942 until the 1990s. Intermixed with nice South African landscape views, the film also shows how Nelson and Winnie Mandela disagreed on how to end the racial segregation of their country.
Often movies take people and make them into towering heroic, virtuous people, leaving out their less than desirable traits. This screenplay does not. It shows Mandela, a towering figure, as human.
His film does a nice job with the relationship between Nelson and Winnie Mandela. It also does well with scenes involving Nelson Mandela dealing with President Frederik Willem de Klerk and members of his administration. However, the film is not as impressive elsewhere. A stronger screenplay would have kept the focus on the relationship of Nelson and Winnie and their battle against a South African apartheid.
Instead, this screenplay conveys too much. The film loses the emotive element it could have had. It jeopardizes good dramatic moments that could make it more endearingly powerful for a sheer sequence of events.
Grade: C+ (A nice historical overview that never reaches its apex.)
“Grudge Match” (Comedy/Sports: 1 hour, 53 minutes)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kim Basinger, Kevin Hart and Alan Arkin
Director: Peter Segal
Rated: PG-13 (Profanity, crude humor, violence and sexual innuendo)