After his terrific work on EMPEROR, composer Alex Heffes continues on a historical roll, now turning his focus from a colonized post WW2 Japan to the Afrikaaner police state that was only overturned in fairly recent history by Nelson Mandela, with no small amount of support from his wife Winnie. Heffes hears his LONG WALK TO FREEDOM with a mighty, upraised musical fist, his score tone indebted to both the longtime symphonic approach of historical epics, as well as the pulsing samples of contemporary thrillers. The impassioned, orchestral march and tender emotion of this oppressed power couple are given a memorable, gutsy theme from Heffes, heroism that’s mixed with the darkness of just how far a Ghandi-esque approach to resistance will go for them. And when the Mandelas are thrown into the hole of a police state prison, guitars and doom-laden strings powerfully mark their unimaginable time.

It’s a melodic soulfulness that remains unbroken as Nelson turns big rocks into little ones, the score always moving forward with the momentum of his surety in ultimate justice. While an African voice opens the score, and tribal percussion surfaces for the resistance, Heffes mostly takes a western-style approach. It’s appropriate for a subjugated land, while also making the music all of the more accessible, and relentlessly impactful as it pays off the emotional goods a biopic demands. Heffes truly embodies Mandela with the kind of heroic fierceness that’s all about sacrificing oneself to a just cause, his score making us understand that lion-like spirit with a moving, melodic power that never feels as if it’s part of the past. MANDELA has stirring force of the best biopic scores, celebrating and making us feel the anguish of every step of Africa’s most important, and continuing walk.

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