Invictus: Movie Review
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon
Director: Clint Eastwood
This is a film some Kiwis may find difficult to watch.
Morgan Freeman stars as Nelson Mandela in the early nineties - recently freed
and swept to power, Mandela's in his first term of office, fighting to heal a
hurt and racially divided South Africa.
Realising the country was still at odds and desperately needing a healing,
Mandela latched on to the South African rugby team, the Springboks, as the key
to bringing them back together - but it's not an easy job for Mandela as he
wryly notes at a test match, half the black population are cheering for the
opposition rather than their national team because of what they represent.
However, the Boks are somewhat of a national laughing joke and haven't won a
game in a long time. But Mandela meets with captain Francois Pienaar (a stoic
Matt Damon) and rallies him to try and bring the team back from the brink of
disaster to national treasure.
So the Boks begin to try and win over hearts and minds as they head to
training camps with the public and look to improve their game.
And of course, it all comes to a head with the now infamous 1995 Rugby World
Cup with its final which broke Kiwi hearts...
Invictus would make a good double bill with Goodbye Bafana which was released
last year - that film concentrated on Mandela's friendship with a guard on
Robben Island ahead of his release - Invictus then deals immediately with
Mandela's rise to power.
Damon and Freeman are both good in their roles - although it has to be said
Morgan Freeman is ever so slightly off in his portrayal of Mandela; while he
looks quite close to the iconic man, he just manages to miss the vocal
intonations of the man. For a man whose power came from his speeches and
rallying, that just slightly detracts from Freeman's portrayal (although I do
admit, he was born to play Mandela).
It's a witty, wry script with some very dry one liners and a nice
relationship between Mandela's eternally loyal ANC bodyguards and the incoming
white Secret Service providing much of the film's humour.
The film's central premise and story is a fair one - but I have to admit to
feeling director Clint Eastwood could have been a little more subtle in some of
his imagery (scenes when the Boks take the RWC focus on the trophy as a black
hand, then a white hand take the cup - yes, it's symbolic, but I couldn't shake
the feeling that I'd be clubbed with the subtlety). There's also some heavy
handed moments when Pienaar visits Mandela's Robben Island cell.
But there are moments which pull you in - the idea Mandela walks out of a
meeting to find out how the game's going give that edge of characterization and
subtlety that Eastwood does very well in all of his film. He also does the rugby
scenes well - it's nothing original for sweeping aerial shots, slow mo sounds as
the players meet in the scrum and the game unfolds. However, the fact you're
right in the thick of the game,makes it thrilling watching for the non-rugby
You can't be a NZ reviewer and not mention the final - while the talk of food
poisoning and subsequent furore is glossed over, some AB fans may find the last
30 minutes of the 2hr 20 minute film a trifle hard to sit through as the loss
comes into focus once again. Eastwood does a good job of recreating the final
and the tension throughout the dying moments (and even the portrayal of the
unstoppable Jonah Lomu is visually quite close to the man himself).
Overall, Invictus is a good film but I did leave kind of wishing Clint
Eastwood had been a little less heavy handed during some aspects - because
thanks to the performances of Damon and Freeman, this inspirational film could
have soared a little higher than it actually does.