So, in essence, playing Nelson Mandela is a fitting role for him, considering he so capably mirrors Mandela's peacefulness and grace without even batting an eyelash. "Invictus" gives him the chance to show off his chameleon like acting ability, embodying every little detail about the great, inspiring South African President.
The film begins with Mandela's 1990 release from his 27-year long prison sentence, a sentence in which most men would lose themselves to bitterness and leave their cell a good deal more cynical, focusing on the negative aspects of life rather than the positive ones. This isn't the case for Mandela, who walks out with optimism and keeps it in mind that he still isn't done changing South Africa, a country still divided by blatant racism.
After being elected President four years later, he becomes increasingly concerned with the violence that constantly erupts between the black and white population. When he attends a rugby match between the Springboks, South Africa's union team, and England, Mandela notices that the black onlookers are rooting for England - he realizes that the Springboks, though representing their country, give a representation of off-putting prejudice. Due to the popularity of the sport, Mandela realizes that, if he manages to turn the Springboks' reputation around, he could unite the country, once and for all.
Aided by the captain of the team, François Pienaar (Matt Damon, who portrays his character with winning boldness), a man who is truly inspired by Mandela's strong soul, the possibility of winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup could bring South Africa together, finally.
A main problem with most "based on a true story" films, is that they either try too hard to stand apart, choosing style over substance, or they are a bit more lenient to make things scream Hollywood, amplifying the pros while compartmentalizing the cons. "Invictus", which is directed by Clint Eastwood, who has always been able to hit a good balance between thought-provoking intelligence and popcorn entertainment, reaches the invigorating high points it's looking for while still putting things into perspective. It's smart but still accessible.
Mandela is a man of legend, one that has the same kind of untouchable greatness that only has been captured by few people, like Gandhi or Mother Teresa. "Invictus" shows him as a man so unbreakable in spirit and so forgiving of the flawed world around him that there isn't a second where we don't watch his actions with jaw-dropping awe. Sure, it may not be the real man standing in front of us, but Freeman plays him with such believability that there isn't any doubt in mind.
The film moves along with such power that there seems to be nothing stopping it - Mandela has never been portrayed in such a fine manner. "Invictus" hits the right balance of emotional strength and factual evidence. This is a movie that leaves us gasping in triumph by the end, a great accomplishment for such a great film.