Synopsis: There is no official synopsis released for this film yet, but it is based on the book “Long Walk to Freedom” by South African President Nelson Mandela.
Why it could succeed:
Well we are certainly limited on this one at the moment, but that won’t stop us from speculating its chances with Oscar, right? We all know how much the Academy loves their biopics – especially in the acting fields. Heck, even Invictus – Eastwood’s film about Mandela’s involvement with the 1995 South African national rugby team – received nominations for both Morgan Freeman (Lead Actor) and Matt Damon (Supporting Actor). Many biopics have been recognized for Oscar’s biggest prize over its long history, including Lincoln, The King’s Speech, and Milk in recent years. So as far as subject matter, it definitely has the potential to be right up their alley. As far as the cast, their aren’t too many instantly recognizable names, though the titular character will be played by Idris Elba, a big star in England whose star has been on the rise in America for quite a while now. Known mostly for his role as the drug lord Russell “Stringer” Bell in HBO’s The Wire, he has also appeared in films like American Gangster, Thor, and Prometheus over the last few years. His performance as Detective John Luther in BBC’s Luther won the actor a Golden Globe in 2012. Another name worth mentioning, and one that could see their stock rise with a strong performance here, is Naomie Harris. Harris was memorable in last year’s Skyfall as Eve (her last name might be a bit of a spoiler), so should she continue to build on the success of that role with a strong performance as Winnie Mandela, then hers might be a name we are talking about for many years.
Another good thing going for the film is it’s scribe, William Nicholson. Nicholson has been nominated twice before by the Academy, once for Adapted Screenplay (Shadowlands – 1993) and once for Original Screenplay (Gladiator – 2000). He was also one of the people behind the screenplay for Best Picture nominee Les Miserables just last year.
It also doesn’t hurt much that the film is being distributed by the Oscar Whisperer himself, Harvey Weinstein (The Weinstein Company). We should all know by now the long track record of success he has when it comes to getting his films recognized by the Academy.
Why it might not:
Ah, the dreaded why it might not section. As hard as it is to say why a film could succeed this far out, it’s even harder to strip the film down before we even have a synopsis. However, the first place I started when assessing the film’s chances was the director. I think most Oscarologists project the chances of a film this far out based on the pedigree and experience of the man or woman behind the camera. In this case, Mandela is helmed by Justin Chadwick, whose only other contributions to feature film thus far are The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) and The First Grader (2010). So there isn’t a whole lot to hitch your wagon to there. I hate to peg the film’s weakest point solely on the lack of pedigree of the director, but this far out that is probably the component that will draw most people’s suspicion for the film’s chances.
Lead Actor (Elba)
Lead/Supporting Actress (Harris)
Adapted Screenplay (Nicholson)