In the film Invictus, Clint Eastwood tells the inspiring true story of
Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) and his efforts to unite South Africa
through the game of rugby by teaming up with the country’s team captain
Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) during the time of apartheid (a system of
legal racial segregation enforced by the national party). The movie
starts on February 11, 1990, the date Mandela was released from prison.
Prior to that date, Mandela played a pivotal role in a movement against
apartheid which consequently lead to his conviction by South African
courts on charges of sabotage and other crimes landing him in prison
for 27 years.
From 1958, Blacks were deprived of their
citizenship but since Mandela’s release, times are changing. During the
first democratic election where Blacks have the opportunity to vote,
Mandela is elected President. Can he be a good President? Can he manage
Black aspirations with White fears? Can he unite a country wounded by
years of racial segregation? These are some of the questions Invictus ultimately asks.
Being a big fan of Clint Eastwood and many of
his previous films (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino, etc.)
I went into Invictus expecting another great film, unfortunately, what
I got was a film suffering from severe identity crisis. I was sadly to
say, disappointed by Eastwood’s good intentions yet dull execution.
With a run-time of 2 hours and 12 minutes the film feels much longer
than that. The whole first hour or more of the film was a history
lesson focusing on the story of Mandela and his political challenges,
the second half was an attempt to make a sports film.
watching a Rugby match where South Africa gets manhandled by England,
Mandela decides he has a year to help motivate and improve the team
before the 1995 World Cup Tournament which South Africa was to host.
The goal of all of this was to help unite this broken country through
the game and also to gain the support of other countries who’s eyes
were going to be on them during the tournament.
The whole movie
itself though is very confusing and unless you are already familiar
with the life story of Mandela and the history of South Africa it takes
you about an hour to really understand what is even going on.
Eastwood’s pacing in the film is terrible, at moments its
excruciatingly slow then they’ll show a quick montage of the team
playing rugby. For those that have no background in rugby its very hard
to follow since they don’t explain anything about the sport so during
critical plays when we should be feeling tense emotions you just end up
feeling lost. The film’s score was a joke. Nearly every other scene
they would play the same three depressing chords on the trumpet and
during one particular scene they played a really bad poorly placed boy
band song. CGI was used in a couple of scenes where you could tell they
were not in a giant arena playing rugby and it was even worse during a
scene where they showed a plane fly by. The South African accents were
decent, Matt Damon did a better job than Morgan Freeman but it wasn’t
anything award winning.
In the end, I felt like they didn’t
really do Nelson Mandela justice. I feel like we never really got to
know him as a character and the leader he was. Unless you are a die
hard history buff who also happens to know and love the game of Rugby,
I really do not think you will like this movie. It was a good attempt
but I think it missed the boat and as a member of the audience I feel I
left with more questions than anything else. Better luck next time
Photo credit: Warner Bros.