REVIEW: Invictus (2009)

14 Jul

REVIEW: INVICTUS (2009) *** out of 4 stars.

Well, I was finally able to get around to reviewing “Invictus”, a film based on the events following the election of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s president in 1994, and I am thankful to all who voted for me seeing that as opposed to “Grown Ups”. “Invictus”, directed by Clint Eastwood, draws from the book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation and the title of the film itself is a double entendre because not only when it is translated does it mean “unbeaten”, but it is also the name of a William Ernest Henley poem that is quoted throughout the film.

The film starts out when Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) is released after 27 years in a South African prison for anti-apartheid activities and skips three years ahead to his election as South African president in 1994. As Mandela struggles to balance the racial tension that still remained after his election he sees an opportunity to unite the country behind their struggling rugby team, the Springboks. The Springboks were primarily seen by the black people of South Africa as a symbol of white supremacy from the apartheid era since all but one of the players were white and they sported the green and gold colors from before the “Rainbow Flag”. Mandela meets with the captain of the Springboks, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), to discuss the importance of doing well at the 1995 Rugby World Cup which was set to be hosted in South Africa. Mandela sees that if the team can succeed at the Rugby World Cup, the non-white support would get behind the team as well. Against all odds, the South Africans make a run at the finals and the nation becomes united behind the team.

While this is not one of Eastwood’s best directed films, it is still very good and is worth watching for Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of Mandela if nothing else. Freeman does a great job getting down Mandela’s mannerisms and quiet disposition while showing the toll the struggle uniting a country that was so divided took on his health and personal life. Matt Damon also provides a strong performance as the leader of a reluctant Rugby team, even if his accent sounded incredibly forced at times. Both Freeman and Damon rightfully received Oscar nominations in the Best Actor and Supporting Actor categories.

I researched the historical accuracy of the film as well and found several first hand accounts from South Africans who state that the film is almost 100% historically accurate, outside of a few small details used for ease of filming. With such an inspiring story, it did not take much effort from Eastwood to make this a gripping narrative. It plays out as both a political and racial drama as well as an underdog sports movie, which would seem like an impossible mix if it were not a true story.

Clint Eastwood, in my opinion, is one of the best directors in the business and outside of a few errors (including a terribly cheesy soundtrack choice about 2/3 of the way through the movie that sounded like something from Team America and made me dock the film a full half star in this review), the film is very well done and deserved the critical accolades it received.

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One Response to “REVIEW: Invictus (2009)”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Movie Reviews by Author « Chris Petersen's Film Blog - November 10, 2010

    […] Invictus                                   B+                           N/A […]

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