By Merle Bertrand | January 31, 2009

Halfway through “Endgame” I squinted down at my program and read the synopsis again. It is that indecipherable.

The film deals with the talks that led to the end of apartheid in South Africa. A company called Consolidated Gold thought it was in their economic interest to bring down apartheid, so they got a group of prominent South Africans together to talk through political interests and, hopefully, influence the president to abolish apartheid.

It’s a great story. I’ve read books on the subject and have found it fascinating. But even reading Mandela and Desmond Tutu will not prepare you for the barrage of information “Endgame” throws at you. Hundreds of balding white guys pass by the screen with names, dates, and political positions you are expected to know and remember. And we all know all white people look the same.

Mandela’s character and the head of the ANC, Thabo Mbeki (Chiwetel Ejiofor) stand out as people to watch. Their stories are relatively simple to follow (especially since their stories are already fairly well known) and the performances are compelling. In fact, all the performances in “Endgame” are solid and compelling in their own little segments, there is just too much information to absorb in one sitting. And without reading The Fall of Apartheid (the book the film was based on) it’s a little hard to sit through even that first sitting.

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  1. Did we see the same movie?

    Even without a written synopsis to use as a crutch, it was immediately clear to me both that Consolidated Gold wanted an “orderly transition” (NOT to bring down apartheid) and that the older man Oliver Tambo (NOT Thabo Mbeki who was head of the Information Department at that time) was head of the ANC.

    I know the trailer sort of misrepresented the movie, showing in a minute all the “thriller” parts of nearly two hours of movie. Now I wonder if the synopsis also did more harm than good.

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