The biopic "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," which is being released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 18, 2014, is a nicely understated film about the late titular South African leader who indisputably had a huge impact on the 20th century and beyond.
Idris Elba, who is known for his multi-award winning titular role in the uber-awesome British series "Luther" and had a memorable run on the American version of "The Office," awesomely portrays Mandela as the equal parts inspirational figure and human being that the real-life man was. Elba demonstrates how Mandela can work up a crowd one moment, handle personal and societal strife extremely well the next, and move onto a cheerful night out with the boys (and the girls).
A more concise description of Elba's portrayal of Mandela is that other historic figures may have endured worse than that man but none have handled his or her personal hell and related struggle any better.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Walk" provides an excellent sense of Elba's performance and the overall power of the film.
An early scene shows a tween Mandela undergoing a tribal rite of passage, and the story quickly advances to a powerful scene roughly 15 years later. This scene depicts trial attorney Mandela as the subject of blatant scorn in open court solely based on the color of his skin.
"Walk" shows how this incident and the daily indignities that Mandela suffers in his segregated society ultimately results in joining (and becoming very active in) the African National Congress.
The overall message that the charismatic and intelligent Mandela conveys is that peaceful means are the preferred method for obtaining equality for the black citizens of South Africa but that violent tactics should be used if necessary.
One of the best lines of the film comes from the depiction of this era of Mandela's life; he tells a crowd that the South African government cannot arrest the entire black population if it resists the laws that deny them basic rights and that the white people will have to do their own mining, cleaning, etc. if they do arrest all those who stand up against the unjust system.
This activity ultimately leads to Mandela's well-known arrest and subsequent 27-year imprisonment on a charge of participating in an attempt to overthrow the government. The scene in which the sentencing judge explains his reasoning for his choice of punishment is a pivotal one in the film and the then-future of South Africa.
The ensuing portion of the film that depicts Mandela's time in a particularly tough prison environment in every sense of that word provides a very interesting representation of what he endures during those years. Being at the mercy of folks who belong to a system for which you have openly expressed great disdain is one of the roughest circumstances that anyone can imagine suffering through.
Throughout all this, the audience is treated to a nice look at the personal life of Mandela. His courtship of long-time wife Winnie is particularly well portrayed, and the audience is made to both admire and sympathize with her regarding how Mandela's imprisonment affects her.
The film then wraps up with the events that lead to Mandela's release from prison and subsequent political activity. His quiet dignity and wry wit during his meetings with top governmental officials from this period are truly inspirational and make anyone watching the film feel honored to take his long walk with him.
The special features include a documentary titled "Mandela: The Leader You Know, The Man You Didn't" and behind-the-scenes shorts.
The (not historical) footnotes to these ruminations regarding "Walk" are that it is a nicely condensed version of the significant and not-so significant events in the life of its subject over several decades of his existence. The almost certain bias of the filmmakers is not apparent, and everyone except hard-core Mandela scholars should learn several new things.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Mandela" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.