Sunday, December 17, 2017
Things To Do

Review: 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' a bit too textbook

By Steve Persall

Times Movie Critic

The tragic timing is striking, of Nelson Mandela's death and the release of a movie about his life that plays like a eulogy. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom reverently traces the late South African leader's life according to his autobiography, in a procession of cinematic bullet points detailing his causes and effects but not necessarily the man.

There were simply too many years and milestones in Mandela's life for a single movie to adequately cover, and the flaws such tributes overlook. Director Justin Chadwick dutifully and sometimes beautifully re-creates those, trying to show how a revolutionary not entirely averse to violence evolved into a living, breathing emblem of forgiveness and reconciliation. It's a valuable history lesson crammed into a creatively uninspired movie. Wiki-cinema, if you will.

Playing Mandela into his 70s — the aging makeup's credibility can't be stretched much more than that — Idris Elba offers a vigorous portrayal that earned a Golden Globe nomination. It's suitably noble, with a quiet power sustained by Elba's commanding physical presence. Equally impressive is Naomie Harris (Skyfall's Miss Moneypenny) as Winnie Mandela, Nelson's second wife and the violent radical he isn't.

An entire movie could focus solely on this fire-and-ice relationship, and in fact it has: 2011's largely unseen Winnie Mandela starring Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard. This fascinating relationship, a loyalty carried through Mandela's years of imprisonment, and then ended soon after his release, is the worst casualty of Chadwick's truncation tactics.

Beginning with Mandela's childhood and a Xhosa tribal rite of passage into manhood, William Nicholson's screenplay races through Mandela's years spent as a lawyer representing repressed blacks in disputes against whites empowered by apartheid culture. Mandela becomes radicalized by the injustices he witnesses, joining the African National Congress to urge a fully democratic South Africa. This first portion of Chadwick's movie is its finest, adding anarchic grit to Mandela's later, more acquainted image as a passive diplomat.

Act two is the drama-draining result of that fiery opposition, with Mandela jailed at Robben Island prison for 27 years. The first signs of becoming a mediating force emerge, negotiating for minor rights with administrators forming a grudging respect for their prisoner. Eventually the outside world rallies around Mandela's civil rights activism, leading to his release and act three, leading South Africa to new levels of tolerance and cooperation.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is an over-sprawled historical epic, chronological to a fault, that will make a finer addition to class curriculums than multiplex marquees.

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.

 
Comments

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballHouston Baptist at Michigan State6 p.m.Big TenNorthern Arizona at USF7 p.m.820-AMNebraska-Omaha at Kansas7 p.m.ESPN2Charleston Southern at FSU7 p.m.ESPNU; 1010-AMNorthern Illinois at Marquette7 p.m.FS1Purdue-Fort Wayne at India...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Trans-Siberian Orchestra honor founder Paul O’Neill in Tampa: ‘You live in all our hearts’

Trans-Siberian Orchestra honor founder Paul O’Neill in Tampa: ‘You live in all our hearts’

The grandiosity and bombast of a typical Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert was tinged with emotion during the band's two concerts Sunday in Tampa, the adopted home of late founder Paul O'Neill.With plenty of friends and family looking on at Amalie Are...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Broadway poised to go ‘Head Over Heels’ for Go-Go’s musical

Broadway poised to go ‘Head Over Heels’ for Go-Go’s musical

Which seems more unlikely: That the Go-Go's have a touring stage musical? That it's produced by Gwyneth Paltrow? Or that it will finally land on Broadway in the 2018-2019 season?Their lips are sealed no longer: All three of those are true. Variety re...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Billy Bragg kept it simple with ‘Levi Stubbs Tears’

Billy Bragg kept it simple with ‘Levi Stubbs Tears’

One last history lesson this week from columnist Kevin Wuench: Next week, English troubadour Billy Bragg turns 60 years old. While we pay tribute to Billy Bragg, he in turn will pay tribute to a great Motown singer with Levi Stubbs Tears.Billy Bragg ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Review: Liam Payne, Camila Cabello, Nick Jonas can’t save Tampa’s Jingle Ball from growing pains

Review: Liam Payne, Camila Cabello, Nick Jonas can’t save Tampa’s Jingle Ball from growing pains

Call it a growing year.Sure, the 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball brought a few thrills; anything constructed with so many screaming teens in mind always does. All the twinkling wristbands and necklaces passed out among the nearly 10,000 fans at Amalie Arena gav...
Published: 12/17/17
Before Jingle Ball, Nick Jonas pops into Tampa Starbucks, buys coffee for fans

Before Jingle Ball, Nick Jonas pops into Tampa Starbucks, buys coffee for fans

The most exclusive pop concert in Tampa on Saturday wasn't the 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball at Amalie Arena. Nor was it Zedd's after-party at the Ritz Ybor.No, the hottest spot in town was the Starbucks at the corner of Westshore and Kennedy, where Nick Jona...
Published: 12/17/17

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballWomen: Florida State at Texas12:30 p.m.FS1Women: Georgia Tech at Georgia1 p.m.SECStony Brook at Providence2:30 p.m.FS1North Carolina at Tennessee3 p.m.ESPNSavannah State at Baylor3 p.m.Fox SunWomen: USF at Florida International...
Published: 12/16/17
Review: Katy Perry brings cartoon pop to spectacular life at Tampa’s Amalie Arena

Review: Katy Perry brings cartoon pop to spectacular life at Tampa’s Amalie Arena

God bless Katy Perry.Bless her Cirque du Soleil-sized vision for her Witness: The Tour, which careened into Tampa's Amalie Arena like a phantasmagoric freakshow on Friday. Bless her 15-foot flamingo puppets, her shed-sized golden dice, her army of ey...
Published: 12/16/17
Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

Fueled by indulgence and machismo, restaurants are a hotbed for sexual harassment

When Brenda Terry was 16 and living in St. Louis, she was a host and food runner at a sports bar where female employees wore cute little cheerleading skirts. One night, she said, a patron grabbed her crotch. She ran to her management team and they de...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Festivus 2017: Send us your grievances

Festivus 2017: Send us your grievances

Here's your chance. Tell us what annoyed you in 2017, and we'll share it with our readers.
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/16/17