Another great lead performance saves another competent biographical drama
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Blu-ray Review
Whilst far from perfect, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a fitting way to celebrate the life of the great man who passed away late 2013, ironically on the eve of this feature’s theatrical release.And he was a great man. Arguably the most important man in the entire history of South Africa. But before he was a freedom fighter, inspiration and great leader, he was just a man – and during the more than a quarter of a Century he spent incarcerated in between, he provided something equally vital: a symbol. He was a symbol of hope, justice and, ultimately, freedom from oppression. This kept the country alive until he could see these hopes made reality, which indeed he did.Long Walk to Freedom charts the entire life history of Mandela, focussing – like every good biopic should – on the man as much as the legend, and giving us insight into his early years as much as detailing his historically better-known latter years. It’s biggest flaw is the fact that it simply does not build the symbol of Mandela up enough, so much so that it is difficult to make the leap from the rebel revolutionary who entered prison, to the President who left prison, with the years of rioting and campaigning in between feeling under-inspired as a result.
Thankfully this is more than made up for not only by the comprehensive four-act style of the biopic as a whole, but also by one man – Idris Elba – who turns in what was performance arguably worthy of an Oscar Nomination as Mandela, and who, for perhaps the first time, jettisons his cool swagger and trademark demeanour in favour of a truly rich character portrayal and dynamic performance which, more than anything else this movie has to offer, pays ultimate tribute to the late legend.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Blu-ray Picture QualityMandela comes with a glorious 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. Detail is stunning throughout, perhaps to the detriment of some of the less impressive prosthetic work that's been done to age Mandela - at its best, it's seamless, but the in-between years often show their cracks due to the clarity on offer from this presentation. There's also a superb grain structure which has been applied and implemented throughout to give the film a welcome sense of presence, depth and weight. It suits the period structure and the importance of the piece.
The video presentation is so good that, at times, the facial prosthetics simply can't keep up.
The film is also quite stylised, making for a broad and variable colour palette, stretching the breadth of tones, but delivering them all with authenticity. Black levels are strong and deep, allowing for excellent shadow detail. There are also no signs of any digital defects - no overt edge enhancement, excessive DNR application, banding, blocking or other problems. Overall's it's easily demo quality and just shy of deserving of a perfect 10.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Blu-ray Sound QualityThe aural accompaniment is strong and rich, flavoured in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, largely emanating from the fronts and centre channels, and taking precedence over the rest of the track wherever appropriate - as you would only expect from such a dialogue-driven drama.
Effects are surprisingly well-presented too, nominally of the ambient variety, allowing for rich atmospherics to be crafted during the film's various locales and set-pieces, but occasionally also bringing us a few louder, more punchy moments of note, including gunshots and even a few explosions.
The rousing score provides a high point for a finely nuanced aural accompaniment.
The score is probably the strongest element on offer, sweeping you up frequently throughout the proceedings, and ensuring that you are utterly immersed in the emotion of the piece. Given full expanse over the surrounds, and afforded some LFE weight, ti enhances the experience no end, and helps nudge this presentation further towards demo territory.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Blu-ray ExtrasMandela's UK release matches up to its preceding US counterpart with a bevy of Extras, headlined by a solid Audio Commentary provided by the Director, who reflects on his feature in the wake of the great man's passing, providing a well-rounded and thoroughly informative piece. Mandela: The Leader You Know, The Man You Didn't adds to this with a 22-minute reflection on the man, which is understandably peppered with clips from the main film, but also features some interesting interview snippets and archival historical footage. There's also four 7-8-minute Featurettes covering such bases as Production Design, Costumes & Make-Up, Special Effects and Music & Sound as well as seven short Interview Tributes from Former Vice Presidents, Musicians, Journalists, Actors and even Activists.
Is Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Blu-ray Worth BuyingCertainly there are shortcomings in Long Walk to Freedom, which plays with such a potent story and yet does not have quite the skill or direction to deliver the impact that you would expect, but between Elba’s performance and the underlying strength of Mandela’s own life story, there is much to engage with in this film; a movie which, ultimately, marks a fitting tribute to the legend, and a perfect way to celebrate the life and legacy of this great man.
Excellent video and audio as well as an impressive array of extra features which further reflect upon the life and legacy of Mandela make this a blind buy for those interested in the subject.
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