Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a solid visual presentation.
Overall, I felt sharpness seemed positive. Any softness was barely noticeable, as the majority of the flick exhibited fine clarity. No signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and I witnessed no edge haloes. Print flaws remained absent in this clean presentation.
Like many period films, Freedom went with a semi-sepia feel as well as occasional golden or teal elements. Within those choices, the colors seemed fine. Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows looked smooth. The image gave us a satisfying transfer.
Given the movie’s character focus, I didn’t expect a lot from the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, but it offered occasional zing. Most of the livelier moments revolved around the civil rights sequences, as they gave us some dynamic moments.
Otherwise, one should anticipate fairly atmospheric material. Music spread across the speakers well, and environmental elements added a good sense of place. There wasn’t a lot here to dazzle, but the mix suited the story.
Audio quality came across as positive. Speech seemed natural and distinctive, without edginess or other problems, while music appeared full and rich. Effects rarely taxed my system, but they were accurate and showed good range. The movie brought us a solid “B” soundtrack.
In terms of extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Justin Chadwick. He provides a running, screen-specific look at how he came to the project, research and attempts at reality, story/character areas, cast and performances, production design and cinematography, music, editing, sets and locations, and related topics.
For the most part, Chadwick gives us a good chat, though he loses steam as he goes. This means the film’s second half features less information than the first. Still, Chadwick covers the movie in a fairly satisfying manner.
Next comes the 22-minute, four-second Mandela: The Leader You Know, The Man You Didn’t. It features notes from Chadwick, journalists Tom Brokaw, Robin Roberts and Dan Rather, musicians John Legend, Randy Jackson and Sean Combs, former vice president Al Gore, producer Anant Singh, activist/former Robben Island prisoner Ahmed “Kathy” Kathrada, former ANC national executive Albie Sachs, screenwriter William Nicholson, and actors Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Ben Vereen, Angela Bassett, Whoopi Goldberg, Blair Underwood, CCH Pounder and Richard Gere. (Note that the last six don’t appear in Freedom; they’re just here to give their thoughts on Mandela.)
“Leader” looks at aspects of the history behind the story, aspects of the movie’s narrative and characters, performances and other elements of the shoot. Mostly we hear that Mandela was great and the movie is great. An occasional useful tidbit emerges, but this mostly ends up as a puff piece.
Behind the Scenes splits into four areas: “Production Design”, “Costumes & Makeup”, “Special Effects” and “Music & Sound”. All together, these fill a total of 30 minutes, 20 seconds with notes from Singh, Chadwick, Harris, production designer Johnny Breedt, Origin Pictures producer David M. Thompson, editor Rick Russell, prosthetic makeup designer Mark Coulier, prosthetic supervisor Clinton Aiden-Smith, makeup designer Meg Tanner, costume designers Diana Cilliers and Ruy Filipe, Blue Bolt’s Angela Barson and Lucy Ainsworth-Taylor, VFX supervisor Stuart Bullen, musician Caiphus Semenya, composer Alex Heffers, SFX re-recording mixer Mark Taylor, dialogue editor Ian Wilkinson, supervising FX editor James Harrison, post-production supervisor Emma Zee, re-recording mixer Mike Dowson, and actor Fana Mokoena.
The pieces touch on the subjects described in the last paragraph’s first sentence. These pieces tend toward the fluffy side, as they often tell us how great the work and movie are. Still, we get decent information along the way; I’d prefer a more objective take on the topics, but we still learn some nice facts.
Within a Tribute Video Gallery, we find a 16-minute, 20-second collection of comments from various notables. These include journalists Dan Rather, Robin Roberts and Tom Brokaw, former Vice President Al Gore, actor CCH Pounder, musician John Legend and anti-apartheid activist Jeanette Carlson. They discuss their impressions of Mandela and his life. As expected, much of this falls into the category of general praise, but a few interesting memories appear from those who met Mandela.
The disc opens with ads for Fruitvale Station and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. No trailer for Freedom appears here.
A second disc provides a DVD copy of Freedom. This includes the commentary and “The Leader You Know” but lacks the other extras.
As a general overview of its subject’s life, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom offers a decent synopsis buoyed by excellent acting. However, it leaves out too many details and rushes too quickly through phases of Mandela’s life to truly satisfy. The Blu-ray brings us excellent picture as well as very good audio; supplements occasionally bring us useful material but they tend to focus too much on banal praise. Freedom offers an enjoyable experience but doesn’t quite measure up to expectations.