Opening 18 Feb 2010
It is 1995, South Africa, and the Rugby World Cup is on the horizon. Apartheid bowed to democracy and a new (black) president, Nelson Mandela, a year earlier. Mandela (Morgan Freeman) has more on his plate than it can hold: how can he unite a country divided by color and more? Clint Eastwood excellently portrays a historical occurrence very naturally, directing Invictus, and us, through this rendition in an effortless and refreshing way.
Great minds find straightforward solutions. Mandela encourages black South Africans to back the national rugby team, the Springboks; with only one black player, to most the team is still a symbol of apartheid. Knowing South Africa will host the World Cup, Mandela sets a course whereby the Springboks could be a unifying force: he wants the Boks to win. He connects with the team’s captain, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), and together they evolve this strategy. The team’s training is intensified, and they are sent as envoys around the country to show kids how to play rugby, which makes the news. Mandela interrupts a Ministry meeting to watch the report: he turns to the room, “You see that? That picture was worth any number of speeches.”
Invictus (the name comes from the poem “Invictus” that gave Mandela moral support during his 27 years in prison) has a thoughtful screenplay from Anthony Peckham, based on John Carlin’s book. Outstanding acting all around: Freeman’s reflective grace and dignity captures the magnitude of the Mandela persona, which account for why this film has such soul and transcends being just a sport-political film. There is no forward passing with Eastwood’s tight, flowing film. If anything, you will want to know about this period in history, and maybe even rugby. (Marinell Haegelin)