Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Scott Eastwood,
Langley Kirkwood, Robert Hobbs, Tony Kgoroge, Bonnie Henna,
RunTime:1 hr 50 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Official Website: http://invictusmovie.warnerbros.com/
Opening Day: 7 January 2010
The film tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela
joined forces with the captain of South Africa's rugby team
to help unite their country. Newly elected President Mandela
knows his nation remains racially and economically divided
in the wake of apartheid. Believing he can bring his people
together through the universal language of sport, Mandela
rallies South Africa's rugby team as they make their historic
run to the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship match.
"In my country, we go to prison first and then become
President."– Nelson Mandela
Eastwood’s latest masterpiece "Invictus" is
in some ways long-awaited. There have always been talk of
Morgan Freeman playing the South African leader in some biopic
(given that the two do share many physical similarities and
are in real life, firm friends) though that has not materialized
till now. But "Invictus" isn’t a biopic of
Mandela’s life, despite Freeman playing the leader.
Rather, it is about a fragile moment in the country’s
history- just after the end of apartheid- when Mandela was
faced with the indomitable task of uniting a divided nation.
strategy turned to the sport of rugby, or to be precise, the
green-and-gold wearing national rugby team, The Springboks.
Eastwood’s opening sets the stage brilliantly for the
events to follow. On one side of a road, the white South Africans
are playing rugby; on the other their black counterparts are
playing soccer. Suddenly, the blacks are seen running towards
the road cheering as a motorcade drives by. The whites are
puzzled, they ask their coach, he replies: "It’s
the terrorist Mandela. They let him out. Remember this day,
boys, this is the day our country went to the dogs."
isn’t just that the game of rugby was a predominantly
white-man sport, but also that the Springboks was a representation
of the apartheid regime, so much so that the black South Africans
would cheer for whoever was playing for the other side. When
that regime was abolished, the blacks were eager to exact
revenge following years of oppression. Among other things,
they wanted to change the name of the Springboks as well as
the colour of their uniform.
Mandela intervened, devising a half-instinctive, half-calculative
strategy for the Springboks to be the pride of the country
in the Rugby World Cup. "We have to prove we are not
what they feared. We have to surprise them with compassion,"
Mandela tells those shocked at his decision to support the
Springboks. The rest is history- and I’m sure if you
wanted to know the outcome, you could very well just flip
through the books. But "Invictus" the movie is about
so much more than just a simple historical fact- instead,
the beauty of Eastwood’s storytelling is how he turns
the movie into a rousing depiction of the mood, the struggles
and most of all, the men who made history.
showing the distrust between the whites and the blacks, Eastwood
and screenwriter Anthony Peckham have deftly included a well-sketched
subplot involving Mandela’s security detail. The first
day Mandela steps into office, his security chief (Adjoa Andoh)
is taken aback that Mandela has appointed four white officers
on their security team. "Forgiveness liberates the soul,"
he tells the chief, sensing their deep mutual distrust. "It
removes fear. That is why it's such a powerful weapon."
And in the days to come, their hostility will give way to
mutual respect, and later on to friendship, a powerful allegory
of the reconciliation process that Mandela tried to engender
Eastwood also lets us know intimately how Mandela’s
mission of rebuilding his country was by no means an arduous
process. He shows both Mandela’s struggle to convince
the blacks of the two roads that would lead to a beautiful
South Africa- goodness and forgiveness- as well as reassure
the whites that his leadership would be one based on inclusion,
not exclusion, and reconciliation, not revenge. Because he
gets his audience personally invested in Mandela’s quest,
Eastwood makes the payoff at the end all the sweeter. Yes,
this reviewer can guarantee you that you will be deeply moved
when you hear the crowds cheering and chanting for the Springboks
in their final match against the New Zealand All Blacks.
of all, Eastwood does not forget to let us know the man, who
for 27 years was incarcerated, breaking rocks in prison and
sleeping on the hard floor, and the man who was ready to forgive
the people who put him there the moment he was released. This
is the man who believed and said this: "I’ve learnt
that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over
it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but
he who conquers that fear." And even though this isn’t
a biopic on Mandela, the picture that Eastwood paints of the
great leader is no less rich nor vivid.
is probably no other actor that can step into the shoes of
Mandela than Morgan Freeman. He does not play Mandela so much
as inhabit the character, imbuing the respected leader with
great dignity and solemnity. His is a pitch-perfect performance
that captures not just Mandela’s grace and compassion,
but also his resilience and fortitude. Indeed, it wouldn’t
be an overstatement to acclaim Freeman’s leading performance
as the best of the year.
in a supporting role, Matt Damon proves that he is one of
the best actors around. Last seen piling on the pounds in
The Informant!, Damon is here fit and buff as Francois Pienaar,
captain of the Springboks, whom Mandela enlists on his PR
campaign to win the hearts of his countrymen. Though this
movie is less about Pienaar than Mandela, Damon is in his
own unassuming way very effective as a man transformed by
his encounter by the shining example of a leader in Mandela.
much deserving of praise is none other than director Clint
Eastwood. The man, now 80, has once again produced one of
the best films of the year- entertaining, inspiring, and most
importantly, significant. It is significant because its message
is one that needs to be told and heard amidst the shouts,
gunfire and explosions that continue to tear at the delicate
fabric of peace. If "Invictus" isn’t its personal
best, it’s only because Eastwood has been such a consistently
stellar director of late that it’s hard to find someone
if you’re wondering where the film derives its title,
"Invictus" is in fact the name of a short poem by
the English poet William Ernest Henley. It’s not hard
to understand why this was Mandela’s personal favourite
and his source of inspiration:
of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
(Inspiring and stirring, Eastwood delivers not just
a rousing motion picture, but an important film about forgiveness
Review by Gabriel Chong