Synopsis: Nelson Mandella tries to unite his countrymen following the fall of apartheid in South Africa.
Release Date: December 11, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Biography
“Invictus”, which means unconquered in Latin, is the title of a poem that enabled the great Nelson Mandela to endure whilst he was imprisoned for three decades in South Africa by apartheid forces. Invictus, the movie, successfully captures that unconquerable spirit. This accomplishment does not rely on flashy editing or impressive special effects, but rather classical storytelling in a restrained though effective manner. The story of how newly elected South African President, Nelson Mandela, turned to a rugby team to unite his post-apartheid nation is compelling enough and Director Clint Eastwood takes that fact into full account. Younger audiences with attention deficit disorder may disapprove of the slowed pace, but those craving a well-crafted film simultaneously serving as a history lesson and sports entertainment will surely be satisfied. The movie is one part political biopic, focusing on Nelson Mandela’s initial efforts to unite his country in the face of racial prejudice. On the other hand, the film is an entertaining, defying all odds feel good sports movie of the year. It should be that cliche completely ravages the film, but in this case the mesh of politics and a happy ending not only works, it inspires. Whether it comes from a president, winning the World Cup, a song, or a poem, inspiration can be a powerful weapon. In this case, inspiration is the soul of the movie. The majority of Invictus takes place in 1995, but a movie dealing with leadership and change never felt more relevant.
Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman are pretty much expected to carry the entire 134 minute load and they both do a fine job at taking on the challenge. Although not quite 6’3”, Matt Damon once again proves his commitment to a role by adding the muscle weight to convincingly play the rugby player Francois Pienaar. The real prize though, belongs to Morgan Freeman, who plays Nelson Mandela with the right amount of grace, gravity, and just enough mischief to not be perceived as a complete saint. Mandela was indeed a great man who said and did great things, but he also tended to ignore doctor’s orders and think about rugby during important international meetings. His life was also tragic, with his twenty-seven or so years in jail forever distancing himself from his wife and daughter. The real Nelson Mandela once said that only Morgan Freeman could convincingly play him and the actor more than lives up to the presidential summons, rounding out the character with believable imperfections. It becomes difficult not to believe when every detail from the South African accent to his posture during speeches are spot-on. Because of Freeman it becomes a joy to share in Mandela’s moments of concern as well as elation. “The past is the past, we look to the future now.” The line delivered by Freeman is just as profound as it was the first day it came into being. We look to the future indeed and in it Freeman receives even more recognition for an already stellar career.
At seventy-nine years old, directing his seventh movie since 2003’s “Mystic River” (that’s more than a film a year!), Clint Eastwood is at the top of his game. It would be different if his 30+ films were complete pieces of crap, but since 2003 Eastwood has been receiving awards attention for just about everything he puts out there. And his latest work, Invictus, is no exception. Although he does pay meticulous attention to detail when it comes to recreating scenes from the past, whether it be 1920s Los Angeles in the “Changeling” or the 1995 Rugby World Cup match at Ellis Park for this movie, Eastwood has never quite been a flashy or stylistic director. What one can rely on in an Eastwood film however is masterful storytelling. For “Invictus”, Eastwood seems to be taking his stylistic modesty to an extreme, going for broke by practicing extreme restraint. There’s some interesting utilization of slow-motion here and some semi-cheesy musical choices there, but for the most part Eastwood knows to just sit back and let the story and actors unfold for themselves. Rather than extraneous stylistic flourishes, he knows the exact moment when to cut to actors’ reactions or a single shot of an abandoned slum to convey the importance of a must-watch event. Why use twenty shots accompanied by seizure inducing editing, when one can tell the same story with one? Clint Eastwood is as close as it gets to classical movie-making; substance over style isn’t just a choice, it’s an unbroken way of life.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Clint EastwoodMace Neufeld
- Producer(s): Anthony Peckham
- Screenwriter(s): Matt Damon (Francois Pienaar)Morgan Freeman (Nelson Mandela)
- Cast: Joel CoxGary D. RoachTom SternJames J. Murakami
- Editor(s): Deborah Hopper
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s): Hirota Paint Industries (HPI)CIS HollywoodCIS Vancouver
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA