Thursday, 28 January 2010

Invictus: Movie Review

Invictus: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
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 fan.
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.

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