Review: Invictus (2009)
Clint Eastwood plays it safe with this tale of Mandela and his idea to bring unity to South Africa through rugby. Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon provide the acting clout while Eastwood shapes the direction of the film. I loved Eastwood’s previous outings; Gran Torino, Changeling, Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River – perhaps for the darker side of filmmaking Directed with each. INVICTUS is a modest, self-effacing movie about extraordinary events that chronicles one battle in Nelson Mandela’s war against the past and his journey to reconstruct a brighter future for his people.
The movie’s plot sounds clichéd, and while the film is a lot of the time, the good news is that it’s not overwhelmed by it. I found it bland and slow; the movie will win audiences with the charm of Mandela, but descends into a film about rugby.
Synopsis: INVICTUS tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela joined forces with the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, Francois Pienaar, to help unite their country. Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of apartheid. Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa’s underdog rugby team as they make an unlikely run to the 1995 World Cup Championship match.
Freeman’s performance as Mandela is sure to get the justified buzz for a best actor nomination, he looks and feels the part, and he really shines here. I believed every word he spoke and every gesture he made. He was born for this role while Matt Damon really only plays a supporting role – or maybe I just found him forgettable in this movie. The score also helps the film get your emotions rising; a terrific soundtrack of inspirational songs. Sometimes it felt as if there should have been two different movies here. A sports movie and a political movie, but it focuses on both, and never really lives up to what it could have been.
Even though INVICTUS didn’t reach me like I thought it might, it is a good movie. It is certainly well done, and had its heart in the right place. It’s not Clint’s best, but deserves to be seen if not just for Freeman’s Mandela.
Invictus – by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
for my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance,
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloodied, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll.
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.