Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and the five best political biopics
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom sees The Wire's Idris Elba donning the famous loud shirt of one of the last century's great men, Nelson Mandela, and its out on DVD next week. The film that follows the great man's life from childhood right through to his election as South Africa's president, taking in his years as an activist, his lengthy imprisonment and his, at times, turbulent personal life. To celebrate the film's release, we thought we'd pick out the five best political biopics.
As we said earlier this year, the Academy Awards' voters do love a biopic, and four of the leading men and women in the films we've chosen were rewarded with a Best Actor or Best Actress gong. Rightfully so too, here's why…
Sean Penn bagged an Oscar for his stunning performance as Harvey Milk, the American politician who became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California. Lovingly scripted by Dustin Lance Black and directed with great aplomb by Gus Van Sant, this is a warm-hearted biopic with some absolutely gut-wrenching scenes that will chill you to your very core. An absolute must watch.
The Iron Lady
In all kinds of ways this is a basic, nuts and bolts biopic, but it has one thing that sets it apart, and that is Meryl Streep's portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, which is totally jaw dropping. Justly rewarded with the Best Actress gong, this film is worth watching for Streep's fascinating take on Thatcher's strained tenure at the top of British politics.
Loosely based on Bill Clinton's campaign for the US Presidency in 1992, this Mike Nichols film starred John Travolta and Emma Thompson, this is a real warts and all look at the highs, low, compromises and grind of a campaign, directed with real flourish. It might have failed to land Travolta an Oscar, but his performance as the womanising, but imminently likeable Jack Stanton is certainly worth watching.
The Last King Of Scotland
Forest Whittaker frightened the life out of all that came before him in this 2006 biopic of totalitarian leader of Uganda Idi Amin. Starring alongside James McAvoy, who played Nicholas Garrigan, the young Scottish doctor who bizarrely became close to Amin, you cannot take your eyes off Whittaker as he delivers a performance that's exactly halfway between debonair and demented. He fully merited his Best Actor award in that year's Oscars.
The most recent of our picks and possibly the best. Daniel Day-Lewis's career is nothing but brilliant performances, but, even by his skyscraper scaled high standards, this is one of his best. Abraham Lincoln accomplished so much in his political career that a sprawling, cradle to grave biopic was out of the question, so director Steven Spielberg wisely decided to focus on the last four months of Lincoln's life as he battles to bring the civil war to an end and finally rid the US of slavery.
Accomplished, wistful and anchored by Day-Lewis's incredible performance, this is a brilliant piece of work. If you only watch one of our choices, make it this one.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom will be released on DVD on Monday (April 28th).