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STEPHEN'S MOVIE GUIDE

Invictus (2009)

Review: written Jul 2010

Eastwood hits gold again

Invictus (2009)

Somehow, Clint can't quite put a foot wrong lately, and while this movie does not perhaps match his directorial highs, it's a great solid entry and well worth seeing. But perhaps it's not best served being described as an Eastwood movie - this is Morgan Freeman's film. This is the role he has been aching to play - Nelson Mandela, and Mandela himself said it was Freeman should play him in any movie depicting him.

This is not the whole life story of Mandela, it's a snapshot, used to illustrate the character and charisma of the man. The moment in question is the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and charts Mandela's conviction that the Rugby was a chance to unite the blacks and whites in a moment of national pride, to finally give truth to his `rainbow nation'. As such, and given the facts are well known, it's a fairly predictable movie - you probably know what happens. What's more, some of the allegories for the bigger picture - the animosity between the white and black bodyguards breaking down as rugby unites them - are a little too trite. There's a nagging feeling that a bigger more complicated picture is not explored - after all, is South Africa now everything Mandela wanted it to be?

Perhaps it's just unkind to complain about these little niggles.. in much the same way that the rugby purists who say the rugby isn't quite right are missing the point. This is about Mandela, and his people, and it tells a remarkable story, no matter how simplified and streamlined it is here. Who could fail but be moved by Matt Damon standing in Mandela's actual cell and start to comprehend what the man went through, and the level of forgiveness he exhibited.

Matt Damon does fine, if not inspiring. Perhaps an actual South African actor would have been more convincing.. it's hard not to be constantly aware that you're looking at Damon, not a rugby team captain. His dissimilarity in height and stature to the rugby team captain is well documented, but not that relevant to his impact on screen. Freeman though is... well, just IS Mandela. He inhabits the role so naturally it feels it’s just the way it's meant to be. And the cinematography is wonderful. And even those rugby scenes.. for the non-purists among you, do a good enough job of giving a flavour of being in a match, to make the final game a suitable climax. As an aside, let's not forget this is a period movie. And with a clever blend of discreet special effects, clever photography and typically fastidious art direction, the mid 90's are perfectly evoked.

Politics are explored, Mandela's character is explored, rugby is explored.. it's a lot to cover. Some elements, such as a deeper understanding of the political context, the solitary black player on the team, or Mandela's home life, are sacrificed as a result of covering so much ground. But it's still riveting viewing, educational and uplifting, and a recommended watch.

Invictus (2009)




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