Metascore
60

Mixed or average reviews - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 32
  2. Negative: 1 out of 32
  1. Reviewed by: Stephen Holden
    Nov 28, 2013
    90
    Mr. Elba’s towering performance lends “Long Walk to Freedom” a Shakespearean breadth.
  2. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Nov 29, 2013
    80
    Mandela is straightforward storytelling of a type that’s somewhat out of fashion, but ultimately no less stirring for it.
  3. Reviewed by: David Gritten
    Nov 26, 2013
    80
    With the magnificent Elba to anchor it, the film gradually achieves a sort of grandeur, in the manner of the hero it depicts.
  4. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Dec 25, 2013
    75
    Elba's performance is commanding and physically meticulous. As he ages through the film, he takes on the stiff gracefulness of the elderly Mandela, so familiar to us from news footage.
  5. Reviewed by: Marc Mohan
    Dec 24, 2013
    75
    British-born director Justin Chadwick might not seem the most logical choice to bring Mandela’s life to the screen, but he handles the historical sweep and the intimate moments with equal steadiness.
  6. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Dec 24, 2013
    75
    A conventional biopic made anything but conventional by the magnitude of its subject's life and accomplishments, and by Idris Elba's imposing performance in the title role.
  7. Reviewed by: Stephanie Merry
    Dec 24, 2013
    75
    It can feel, at times, both overlong and oversimplified, but the story propels itself along while awakening in viewers some profound emotions.
  8. Reviewed by: Richard Roeper
    Dec 24, 2013
    75
    Elba captures the fire and the passion of Mandela the young activist, the resilience of Mandela the political prisoner, and the wisdom and astonishing capacity of forgiveness of Mandela the elder statesman.
  9. Reviewed by: Roger Moore
    Dec 18, 2013
    75
    Looming large above this “Long Walk” is Elba, in a mostly still performance, one of quietly compelling authority that dominates every moment.
  10. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Nov 27, 2013
    70
    It is the incendiary work of British actors Idris Elba and Naomie Harris as the couple in question that elevates our involvement in this authorized film version of Nelson Mandela's autobiography.
  11. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Dec 28, 2013
    67
    He decided early on what he wanted and pursued it straightforwardly all his life. That rarely yields riveting drama, however well-intentioned filmmakers may be.
  12. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Dec 25, 2013
    67
    It's a valuable history lesson crammed into a creatively uninspired movie. Wiki-cinema, if you will.
  13. Reviewed by: Chris Nashawaty
    Nov 26, 2013
    67
    All of the highlights are dutifully hit, as in a made-for-TV movie (albeit a lavish, gorgeously photographed one). Unfortunately, they're hit with a sledgehammer.
  14. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Dec 25, 2013
    63
    A good and necessary film, but like the man himself it’s not immune to scrutiny.
  15. Reviewed by: Connie Ogle
    Dec 24, 2013
    63
    A better primer-for-the-uninitiated than an in-depth, fresh and insightful examination of a famous and remarkable life.
  16. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Nov 29, 2013
    63
    Sometimes it's the most remarkable and heroic figures whom movies can't seem to get right. Such is the case with Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, a biopic that is more dutiful than illuminating.
  17. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Nov 27, 2013
    63
    A long slog of a movie that insists on hitting the high spots like a Wiki page, which leaves little room to investigate the political and personal changes that altered Mandela's thoughts about violence and its uses.
  18. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Nov 26, 2013
    63
    Provides a different take on its subject than many of us are accustomed to: Nelson Mandela is no Martin Luther King Jr., and he was far more radical than even Malcolm X. If you’re under the impression that his ideas got him imprisoned for 25 years, think again: It was his bombs.
  19. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    Dec 30, 2013
    60
    It’s vivid, substantial and works hard to be worthy, but as it ticks off the milestones of a monumental life it flickers more often than it really catches fire.
  20. Reviewed by: Barbara VanDenburgh
    Dec 24, 2013
    60
    The intentions are noble, but the film’s eagerness to honor Mandela instead shortchanges him. Mandela was a man who broke the mold; “Mandela” is a film content to nestle very neatly into it.
  21. Reviewed by: Dave Calhoun
    Nov 26, 2013
    60
    Bold performance or not, you can see history weighing heavily on Elba’s shoulders (in later scenes as an older man, you can see the makeup, too).
  22. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Dec 2, 2013
    55
    The film was shot entirely in South Africa, and revels in golden light on dry yellow grasslands. But it's still a very British movie, a respectful view from a suitable distance.
  23. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Dec 25, 2013
    50
    The movie is extremely well produced, it features two excellent lead performances, and it is dull.
  24. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Dec 25, 2013
    50
    Unfortunately, this reverent and old-fashioned biopic is a prime example of the kind of inspirational movie that is, itself, uninspired.
  25. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Dec 18, 2013
    50
    It’s too bad, then, that Justin Chadwick’s film does not offer a more substantial portrait of the man, whose passing is a fresh wound to mourners and curious onlookers worldwide.
  26. Reviewed by: A.A. Dowd
    Nov 29, 2013
    50
    Were Mandela solely interested in that early chapter of its subject’s life, when he was reluctantly turning to violent tactics in the war on apartheid, the film might have achieved a uniquely complicated perspective. Alas, the first passage is just a portion of what turns out to be a typically sprawling, bloated biopic.
  27. Reviewed by: Michelle Orange
    Nov 26, 2013
    50
    "Mandela" is not without the capacity to move.
  28. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    Nov 26, 2013
    50
    For all its failings, there is one thing about “Long Walk to Freedom” that can’t be denied: Idris Elba gives a towering performance, a Mandela for the ages.
  29. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Dec 24, 2013
    40
    One only wishes they were able to deliver these performances in a movie that felt more like a true celebration of Mandela's life -- and less like homework.
  30. Reviewed by: Jordan Hoffman
    Nov 29, 2013
    40
    He spent 28 years in prison and this is what he gets?
  31. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Nov 26, 2013
    40
    As a lesson in how not to make a historical biopic, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom proves remarkably complete: It’s a dull, glossy, uncomplicated portrait of a man whose personal and political legacy is marked by serene idealism and shrewd calculation.
  32. Reviewed by: Andrew Schenker
    Nov 23, 2013
    38
    A cursory history lesson with no interest in probing the deeper or more complex implications of Mandela's positions and their relationship to his country's shifting landscape.
User Score
5.8

Mixed or average reviews- based on 36 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 7
  2. Negative: 0 out of 7
  1. Nov 29, 2013
    6
    Idris Elba is a gifted actor unable to hone in to one aspect of his iconic character. Director Justin Chadwick goes all in on the performance without an angle to challenge it. Long Walk of Freedom is the Mandela show, for better or worse. Full Review »
  2. Jan 24, 2014
    5
    This film made me cold and I'm so sorry because that. Mandela's death in last year it was a tragic event and I think that film is opportunistic. It seems a made-for-TV film. Idris Elba is great with Mandela role but makeup is unbelievable. Sorry, Mandela merits better films. Full Review »
  3. Jan 9, 2014
    6
    It feels like the film builds to a climax that never arrives. The film does feature two great performances from Elba and Harris, the depictions of the race war and racism in South Africa is well handled, especially how out of control things got around the time of Mandela's release. There are some scenes which are great unto themselves such as Mandela's trial, several scenes during Mandela's time on Robben Island, Mandela greeting the people as the first black president as he is respectfully saluted by his white staff members and so forth. The final scene in particular had some great soul to it, and Elba's perfectly delivered monologue of one of Mandela's most famous quotes was very moving.

    Having said that, the film suffers from the problem of trying to cram too much detail and information about Mandela's story in South Africa into a two hour film, and, as a result, several scenes which could have built up to something poignant or could have been fleshed out are quickly glossed over. These scenes include but are not limited to the Sharpeville Massacre and the resulting wave of protest and oppression, Mandela's trial itself, his imprisonment on Robben Island, and the final stages from his release to his ascendancy to presidency.

    As a result, the film feels like there's a lot of plot to it, but not a lot of story, as if the film is running by a tick box list. "Oh, we did Sharpeville, good, let's move on. Oh, we did Mandela's trial, okay let's move on". No one moment is really given any real chance to shine, it feels like there's no real substance or consequence to them in terms of the characters and situation on screen. As a result, the final climax Mandela ascending to presidency when it comes, doesn't carry the emotional punch that it should.

    Despite these problems, I would still recommend that people would watch this film at least once.
    Full Review »