The first thing that struck me as I watched this film is how this man’s life, this man’s real life, would be completely unbelievable if presented as a fictional character. This adaptation of his autobiography is epic when presenting the African continent, and claustrophobic when showing his Mandela’s decades in prison. It’s as solid as a film can probably be to try to capture this man’s life.
Idris is solid in the title role; in capturing his entire life, Elba is probably the best suited actor right now to play Mandela as a younger, more sexualized Mandela (no disrespect to Mr. Freeman or Fish). Just my personal opinion, but the real star of the film is Naomie Harris as Winnie. If you only know her as Moneypenny, this part is a revelation. The camera loves her, and her character arc is more interesting than the well known mythology of Nelson. For what it’s worth, combine this with ‘Beasts of No Nation’, and this is the second time lately where Idris is the headliner but his co-star takes the movie. As an actor and a filmmaker, this kind of ‘generosity’ makes me like him even more.
Streaming on Netflix now. Didn’t do what it was expected to do last awards season, but still worth watching.