Mandela was a formidable and caring leader. Quite possibly one of the most
interesting and compelling people of our time. Clint Eastwood’s new film
“Invictus” tells the story of Mandela, his rise to power, and his effort to
unite his divided nation with the national rugby team.
Mandela is elected president of South
Africa, the country is embroiled in bitter
racial segregation known as apartheid. Mandela’s first order of business is to
try and bridge the gap between the blacks and the whites, and create a
colorblind country, or what he calls “The Rainbow Nation.”
Freeman plays Nelson Mandela, and will most likely earn an Oscar nomination for
his role. He’s stoic, but loving. One of the more subdued, but powerful
performances this year.
black people of South Africa
feel that it is their duty to change the way things are run. They try to start
by renaming the Springboks, which is the national rugby team. Mandela
intervenes, not wanting to change the name of something so dear to the white
people of the country.
Pienaar is the captain of the Springboks. He’s played by Matt Damon, who is
largely inconsequential in this role. The screen time he does have isn’t much
more than a few lines at a time, and the rest of it is him running up and down
the rugby field. Mandela calls Pienaar to his office, wanting to discuss the
upcoming Rugby World Cup that will be played in South Africa. Mandela wants the
team to win, which he thinks will bring his nation together. If they can’t
agree on anything, he’ll try to get them to come together over sports.
runs himself ragged trying to perform his duties, and at one point collapses
during the film. Eastwood seems to have a similar work schedule. He’s been
pumping out the dramas. This is his sixth film since 2004, and sadly it shows.
There seem to be multiple directorial miscues within the film, for example as
Mandela is flying high in a helicopter a Backstreet Boys sounding pop song
about “colorblindness” suddenly invades the soundtrack. A pop song on an
Eastwood soundtrack? Inconceivable!
the movie coasts on the back of Freeman’s performance, the rest of it lacks the
emotional punch that we’ve come to expect from Eastwood films. Instead it
flounders around not knowing which direction to take. Another obstacle is that
the majority of Americans do not understand the game of Rugby
and will be lost during the fast-paced rugby scenes. Instead of building
suspense during the climax of the games, instead it builds confusion in the
minds of the audience. The rugby, for Americans, just doesn’t translate into
the elements are there in “Invictus” to make a movie worthy of a Best Picture
Oscar nomination, but instead it never builds to that. The last fourth of the
film substitutes Freeman’s great performance with quick-cutting, nauseating
rugby action scenes. Damon’s acting abilities are glossed over in such a way
that we forget he’s even there. Regrettably, at the end, we feel no deeper
satisfaction or familiarization with the situation in South Africa
and what Mandela actually did. He is a great man, and deserves a better movie
than this to tell his story.