Posted on 12/08/09 11:05 AM
Invictus was directed by Clint Eastwood based on the book called "Playing the Enemy" by John Carlin. It stars Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, captain of South Africa's rugby team.
This story follows the beginning of Nelson Mandela's presidency in South Africa and his embracing of the sport of rugby as a way to unite his nation in a common spirit and break down barriers between people.
With all these top notch people involved, I went into this movie with higher expectations and really wanted to like it. After watching it though, I admit I am disappointed. This movie has some disadvantages of accessibility with some of the cultural differences and the sport of rugby not being very well known in the states so it has to work past these problems. The story plays like your average underdog sports team movie but with a whole country instead of a local high school team. We spend too much time practicing and playing rugby. There was only a short foray into the man's personal family life and I would have liked to see that explored more. Also too much time was delved into a subplot involving Mandela's security team learning to get along once 4 whites and 4 blacks had to work together. If an attempt were made against the president's life, the time spent with the bodyguards would be warranted, but they are really just a snapshot of the feeling in the culture and really could have been trimmed down considerably, we got the concept.
Nelson Mandela is a brilliant visionary with a profound understanding of image and psychology and Morgan Freeman playing him is brilliant as always in this film. He really knows how to play with the little things to bring a character across well and make him empathetic with the audience. His voice is always an engaging tool in his performance and his smile in public whether being cheered or booed really captures true moments from photos of Nelson Mandela. Freeman demonstrated Mandela's strength and drive while also making him real and vulnerable to human limitations.
Matt Damon pulls off a reasonable accent and determination as captain of the rugby team, but really has a light line load when you consider how much of the movie he and other members of the team spend playing rugby over a montage of games!
The messages of prejudice and a battle between races/classes is so beaten into your head, it is over the top. I mean, there's a national anthem, other cheering songs, flags, a poem and all kinds of symbols and themes that are the same idea OVER and OVER again until you get the idea that they were worried they wouldn't have enough and we wouldn't get it! There's not much to get! No matter how old you are, you understand the concept of division amongst people and the challenging road to get to a peace and partnership between them. Between overdoing the message and going overboard the rugby (really, the slow motion and grunting towards the end was getting almost uncomfortable instead of inspiring and moving like it was supposed to be) that I felt engulfed in the two and the over-saturation did me in. I was left disappointed. It became just another sports movie with the exception being this amazing history behind it, and it didn't feel special enough. I believe it was still got a lot of buzz because of people expecting a lot and it might still get nominated just by prestigious association of Clint Eastwood and the others, but I didn't feel it earned it like other great movies I've seen in the past. I was hoping for something fresh and genuinely deeply moving and it was boring and stale in parts.
To be perfectly honest, it did everything wrong what The Blind Side, a surprise success, did right. They went less on the sports and heavy on the heart without hitting you over the head with the message, they just let it come through on its own. I never thought a movie with such promise like Invictus would pale in comparison to the richness of The Blind Side. :-(