Although I quite like biopics, they’re not my favourite genre. I think the reason for this is because I’m usually familiar with the subject matter beforehand. For a biopic to be really good it needs to tell me something I didn’t already know or focus in detail on one dramatic event in the protagonist’s career as was done with the recent Lincoln film.
The problem with Mandela: was that it tried to cover too much. Although I liked the period detail and the depictions of racist incidents the pace of the first half was much too fast. For example the film covers Nelson Mandela’s courting, marriage, bringing up children, wife beating and divorce of his first wife all in a couple of minutes. The pace does slow in the second half, covering Mandela’s imprisonment, but I found the insertion of contemporary news footage of events such as the Soweto uprising and Free Mandela concerts irritating.
However I thought Idris Elba’s acting was excellent. Although he didn’t look like Mandela he did capture his speech and body movements. Naomie Harris did a good job of depicting Winnie Mandela too.
I think you could have made two films just on Mandela’s negotiations from prison and the breakdown of his marriage to Winnie. Both these aspects were briefly covered in the film.
Despite the above comments, overall I still thought it was a reasonably good film. 3 stars.