Oscars 2013: EW's no-nonsense Prize Fighter analysis of early contenders '12 Years a Slave,' 'Gravity,' more ...


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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (Nov. 29)

Nelson Mandela’s biography is a story that may simply be too big for one film.

The movie’s Toronto debut came just days after an ailing, 95-year-old Nelson Mandela returned home from the hospital, which gave the screening a special poignancy. The iconic South African leader may be at the end of his life, but it’s a life worth celebrating –- and commemorating.

That’s why Mandela the film so confounding. It contains an Oscar-worthy lead performance by Idris Elba, who uncannily captures Mandela’s voice and mannerisms over the course of half-a-century. It chronicles the young lawyer’s rise to anti-Apartheid revolutionary, his 27 years at Robben Island as a political prisoner, and eventual release and ascension to the presidency. But director Justin Chadwick’s movie is like a gourmet meal where each course is too-quickly pulled away to make room for the next one.

The movie is good, but voters weren’t willing to go much further with their praise. (Some were less kind, calling it dull.) It might have made a much more stirring three-movie miniseries, like the terrorism saga Carlos. Or conversely, like Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, it could have benefited from focusing on just one segment of its historic figure’s life, by way of illustrating the subject through a single story.

Naomie Harris also impresses as Mandela’s even more reactionary wife Winnie, and Lol Crowley’s cinematography immerses viewers in the beauty of the African nation while contrasting it with the gritty, often gruesome tragedies of Apartheid.

NEXT PAGE: Prisoners

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