Even those familiar with the history will be impressed and moved to see these events as Mandela experienced them, before the Nobel Prize and universal adulation recast the past in a glow of inevitability.
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle, 2013-12-26
Elba has long been better than the film roles he's been offered, a tradition that continues with his leading role here.
Barbara VanDenburgh, Arizona Republic, 2013-12-25
Though it's a story we've heard so often that we perhaps take it for granted, seeing all the events of this remarkable journey laid out for us in a two-hour and 21-minute feature underlines its not-to-be-believed qualities.
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times, 2013-12-24
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom does a worthy job of honoring both its subject and its audience.
Stephanie Merry, Washington Post, 2013-12-24
Elba may not look...like the South African leader, but his sheer presence makes you believe he is channeling him. Still, [it] falls frustratingly short as a cinematic experience, trying to cram too much of Mandela's colorful life into too little time.
Cary Darling, Fort Worth Star-Telegram/DFW.com, 2013-12-24
[A] vibrant, engaging film adapted from Mandela's 2000 autobiography.
Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News, 2013-12-24
The restrained intensity of Idris Elba's performance as Nelson Mandela ennobles this ambitiously sprawling biopic.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter, 2013-12-24
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.
Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer, 2013-12-24
At almost 6 feet 3 inches, [Elba is] too big for physical similitude, but big enough in dramatic presence to measure up to his character's courage and moral stature.
Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal, 2013-12-02
Nelson Mandela gets the Classics Illustrated treatment with this handsome, undemanding biopic.
Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, 2013-12-26
The life of Nelson Mandela is simply too big, too complex and too important to be contained in one movie.
Tom Long, Detroit News, 2013-12-26
You keep wishing, as "Mandela" plays out, that this were more than one movie.
Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times, 2013-12-24
Aside from some youthful randiness early in the film, it wouldn't be out of place at a state funeral.
Ty Burr, Boston Globe, 2013-12-24
This movie begs to be compared to epics such as "Reds" and "Gandhi." But while Elba embodies a dignified hero, the film itself is less than revolutionary.
Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2013-12-24
[A] conventional, high-minded, rather pedestrian movie ...
Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2013-12-24
There will one day surely be a great film about Nelson Mandela, one that shows the man in all of his glory as both revolutionary and peacemaker. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom isn't that film.
Peter Howell, Toronto Star, 2013-12-24
There's so much crammed into this 139-minute movie that it often leaps from one event to the next too swiftly to make much of an emotional impact.
Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald, 2013-12-24
Unfortunately, this reverent and old-fashioned biopic is a prime example of the kind of inspirational movie that is, itself, uninspired.
Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail, 2013-12-24
Superior acting aside, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" feels like a film you watch because you should, not because you want to.
Tony Hicks, San Jose Mercury News, 2013-12-18
Maybe Mandela is one of those historical figures whose life is greater, more larger-than-life, than any mere movie could ever do justice to.
Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor, 2013-12-02