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As a South African who saw this film on Friday morning, I can tell you
you the entertaining, inspiring and enjoyable "Invictus" exceeded all
It really is a true story of epic proportions yet it's told with an intimate feel, and it is at least 98% accurate to the events of the time. Clint gets all the big details and so many of the little details right, but he never goes over the top. He directs with minimum fuss and achieves maximum effect, just letting the powerful story unfold without getting in its way.
I watched the 1995 Rugby World Cup and saw Madiba come out in the Springbok jersey. It was a wondrous sight. And when Joel Stransky slotted that drop kick over in the dying minutes and the Boks won, I wept and cheered along with everyone else. After the match millions of South African - of all races - celebrated. It was an amazing time. It was the birth of the "Rainbow Nation". Nelson Mandela is the greatest and most beloved of all South Africans. The man is a living legend, but so human and real. When he was President he brought hope to all South Africans, white and black. We, in my country, will never stop loving this incredible man. Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman did South Africa and our beloved Madiba proud. Francois Pienaar is also an amazing South African, an intelligent, big-hearted rugby played who always led by example, and Matt Damon's performance as him was superb. I was glued to the screen for every second of the film's running time (I didn't even move from my seat until the final credit rolled and the house lights came on), and I was moved to tears on several occasions. The final scene was especially touching.
Freeman's performance was magical and I can see him getting as Oscar nomination. If you think his Mandela is too cool to be true, think again. Mandela really is this cool. A brave and intelligent man whose courage and strength of character should serve as an example to people all over the world. After being unjustly imprisoned for nearly 30 years by a cruel and repressive regime, he emerged to run a country and teach its people the meaning of forgiveness and reconciliation.
I thoroughly recommend the authentically detailed, historically accurate "Invictus" to film lovers, Eastwood fans, Nelson Mandela fans and sports fans everywhere in the world. South Africans would be crazy to miss this excellent film, but it deserves to be a hit all over the globe. Let's hope it is.
Viva Clint Eastwood, viva Morgan Freeman, viva Madiba.
PS. I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood as both an actor and a director.
Of the films Eastwood has directed, my favorites, in no particular order, are "Unforgiven", "Million Dollar Baby", "Gran Torino", "The Outlaw Josey Wales", "Letters From Iwo Jima", "The Bridges of Madison County","Bird" and "Invictus". Yes, it's really that good. "Invictus" is another winner from Clint. He just seems to get better with age. What a creative roll he is currently on.
PPS. "Invictus" is one of the best sporting movies I have ever seen. But it's also about more than sport.
In surely one of his lightest and straight-forward works of his career,
Clint Eastwood has achieved one of the most inspirational films of the
year with his new film, Invictus.
Starring Academy Award Winners Morgan Freeman as South African President Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as Rugby Captain Francois Pienaar, Invictus is a picture full of emotion, magnetism, and revelation. What critics and audiences may be deceived by is belief that this is THE Nelson Mandela biopic which it is not. It is the story of Nelson Mandela's first years as President of the culturally separated country South Africa in 90's. In a way to unify his people, Mandela used the country's love for Rugby to connect the whites and the blacks. As their record has been less than impressive, no one expects anything notable from the Springboks. Mandela taps the captain of the team to rally his troops and surge into battle for the greater good of his country.
Everything about Invictus works on so many degrees of the medium based on the book "Playing the Enemy." The film never comes off as too pretentious or egotistical; it requires nothing more from the viewer than an open mind and heart. Eastwood directs the film perfectly, laying back when he needs to, never pushing the subject matter or shoving it down our throats. He utilizes all the skills we've come to love about his earlier works in Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, and Letters from Iwo Jima. The use of light shows a character' s vulnerability inhabiting their souls or a score by Kyle Eastwood that offers both zeal and subtlety during a rugby match.
Cinematographer Tom Stern hits another one out of the park, catching all the fury and apprehension of all the different elements of this strenuous time. Joel Cox and Gary Roach edit the film with the perfect amount of precision and friction.
Morgan Freeman as Mandela is a wonderful charmer, showing the man's most hostile yet tranquil behaviors. Not necessarily the most engulfed characterization seen on film this year as Freeman's accent comes in and out of remission, but it's a tremendous performance worthy of an Oscar nomination.
Matt Damon, showing himself as one of the best working actors today, doesn't have enough of the character depth and arc to carry the picture. Damon's performance doesn't allow him to really go anywhere. It's a superb turn, with a great accent inhabitance, that warrants credit where the credit is due. However, Damon requires nothing more than a little motivational speaking and responsive humility.
Invictus, is one of the best pictures of the year, standing in the ranks of one of the best sports films of the decade. This is the type of film that Oscar will likely be all over and fall in love with. I concur.
Morgan Freeman's made a career out of playing inspirational second
fiddles who always steal the movie. Now with Clint Eastwood's
"Invictus", we finally get to see this amazing actor take front and
center and run with it. The movie, based on a John Carlin novel about
the event that changed South Africa, fits Freeman like a glove and it's
hard to imagine he's not a front-runner for that lead actor Oscar he
has so deserved for so long now.
He plays Nelson Mandela as a born leader, an authoritative yet empathetic uniter who preached forgiveness and looked for common ground when elected president of South Africa. His election caused unrest among whites, and blacks still had hard feelings for years-worth of oppression. The one thing he saw that could unite was the Rugby team, a shamefully rag-tag bunch facing extinction because many still saw the team as a left-over from apartheid. Mandela knew ending the team would mean more unrest among white Rugby fans so instead he presented a challenge to team captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon); win the world cup,unite us.
Do they? It's all predictably plotted and there are times where you wish Eastwood had employed an announcer to explain what's happening on the Rugby field but the great themes of forgiveness, unity, and determination make this a sports movie well worth seeing. There are really wonderful elements here. The relationship between Mandela's white and black security detail. The Rugby team reaching out to the community by going to the slums and teaching kids how to play. Pienaar's visit to Mandela's prison cell to understand the man's courage. The people of South Africa rallying into something of a community. And the bond between Mandela and Pienaar, very well played by both Freeman and Damon, of two men looking for their country's pride, it's center, and it's heart. By the final Rugby match, the movie has built up such good-will that any predictability or confusion on screen becomes an afterthought to the joy and excitement on display. Eastwood's film shows how sports can unify people, a simple yet inspirational and lovable message that should leave audiences cheering.
Invictus is an enjoyable film, Morgan Freeman is great as Mandela and
it's an inspiring story. The movie revolves around the 1995 Rugby World
Cup and Mandela's attempt to unite South Africa behind its rugby team.
Mandela develops a relationship with team captain Francois Pienaar
(Matt Damon)playing the role of mentor and motivational coach.
Although it's well-made and worth watching. As a rugby fan I was a little disappointed with the action on the field although most ordinary film-goers may not notice. I am not convinced the director (Clint Eastwood) really understands the game and the actors hired to play the Springboks didn't really look the part. At 5'10" Matt Damon is a little small to play the 6'3" and 240 lb Pienaar. Pienaar was a popular charmer with a ready smile and a real ambassador for South African rugby. Damon still seemed to be playing Jason Bourne. It was an intense performance but it wasn't how I remembered Pienaar.
South Africa had not been allowed to play in previous world cup tournaments and the years of isolation had left the Springboks uncompetitive. They were seeded ninth coming into the tournament but exceed expectations by reaching the final. The action focuses on the final match with New Zealand. New Zealand had an amazing wing (running back) in the 20 year old Jonah Lomu who at 6'5" and 265 pounds seemed unstoppable. South Africa really were the underdogs. It was also the only time that the All Blacks have managed to reach the final since 1987. They usually get beat by the French (1999, 2007) or Australia (1991 and 2003)in the quarters or semis.
Overall it's nice for rugby to finally receive some recognition from Hollywood, because it's a major global sport. It's a good film.
I discovered that "Invictus" is a short poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley. The title is Latin for "unconquered". It was first published in 1875.
People forget that Nelson Mandela came to power at a time when his
country was bitterly divided. There was the bitter experience that
white South Africans saw in their neighboring countries,i.e., Rhodesia,
now Zimbabwe and other nations where the White colonialist had been
replaced by Black African politicians and a stable government had been
replaced by corrupt, self-serving regimes where those in power
feathered their nests after seizing the assets of their former White
citizens and placed all their friends in positions of authority with
the result of the country going to the dogs. The scene where the
Afrikaaner newspaper remarks, "Mendela can get elected but can he run a
country," and the superb Morgan Freeman remarks to his bodyguard that
the headline raises a good point.
In a sense, this film is about Mandela. The rugby team becomes a metaphor of what he faced when ascending to the presidency, a nation divided. Noting that the Black South Africans were cheering for the opposition in the face of the old Apartheid guard whose love of rugby unified them. It's easy to forget that there was a great division among White South Africans, i.e., the descendants of the Boers, Afrikaaners, and the rest. There was even a middle ground with the "Coloreds," Asian South Africans, being caught between these two worlds and there were bitter rivalries among the competing African political interest groups as well.
Mandela's focus on reviving the national rugby team and making it a symbol of a new united nation homes in on the role of Matt Damon, an Afrikaaner who's the captain of the team. Francois is the catalyst that makes this story work and Damon, the rugged Mick from Boston, does a fantastic job showing the transition from hopelessness to hope as many White South Africans felt at that time. The wonderful thing about this film is its touching on all the levels. It goes beyond being merely the story of a single man or group of men. Sure, we love a "feel good" movie and of course we love an "underdog can win" flick, but this film works works because its about people working together to rebuild something new for everybody.
The film reeks with great moments: Pienaar visiting the cell where Mandela spent more than 20 years of his life, thinking and planning; The New Zealand Rugby team doing their Maori threat dance before the match; the jet buzzing the field before the game-- and so on. See it. Enjoy it. And, don't forget, it's a bit of history. Romanticized? Somewhat. Mandela wasn't able to solve all of South Africa's big problems, but he did one bang-up job for the Springboks.
Originally, I thought this movie was going to be a biopic on the life
of Nelson Mandela. To some degree, it is a biography on Mr. Mandela,
but the film's main focus is on his idea of inspiring a country that is
drawn to crime, violence, and poverty (after years of Apartheid) to a
glimpse of hope via the nation's rugby team.
Without a doubt, this is the perfect role for Morgan Freeman. I will note that his accent comes and goes throughout the film, but he nails the role down. He is not overly dramatic nor does he just read the script. He becomes the man. Morgan Freeman is easily one of my favorite actors because he never plays himself. He always makes himself into the character he's assigned to. He'll definitely receive the Best Actor nom, and hopefully, Morgan can finally win the Oscar he so desperately deserves.
Regarding Matt Damon as the rugby coach (Francois Pienaar), he too immerses himself into his role. He even maintains a solid accent. However, the sympathy of the film is aimed towards Mandela than it is to Francois. The other cast members (none of which I recognized) also gave decent, believable performances.
As with the plot, it is predictable, something we've seen before underdog overcomes impossible odds, yet screenwriter Anthony Peckham throws in many important themes that may seem all to familiar, but is nonetheless eye-opening such as: forgiveness, unity, and determination to do what is right. Racial tension between the whites and blacks is dominant in the movie, particularly between the black and white security guards, but the film's point, as well as Mandela's goal, is to put our differences aside and work together as one.
The movie isn't just about a rugby game, but rather organizing a nation to a success. It may be considered a wise political move on Mandela's part, but as Morgan says to his aid, "It is a human calculation". People need inspiration in order to change and to do good. These themes are what make it a good film. It also makes it a different kind of sports movie.
Tom Stern's cinematography is wonderful, and this time, he doesn't make the movie all sepia tone like in "Letters of Iwo Jima" or "Changeling" and I congratulate the editors Joel Cox and Gary Roach once again for making each shot beautifully seamless and well structured for the storyline. The music by Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens is not just a pretty tone that plays along with the movie, but it adds some oomph and emotion. I particularly love their choice of African vocals, for it not only makes the film feel more real, but it is absolutely beautiful to listen to.
Clint Eastwood has done another great movie. Not only has he captured the themes of the story, but also the poverty of South Africa as well as the intense rugby sequences. There are some powerful scenes in this movie, as well as some intense and suspenseful ones, and even ones that'll make you smile. For the first time in a movie for this year, I actually cried. Not because of sadness, but from joy.
"Invictus" is an inspiring film. Some back-story could have been added to the characters and the first act could have been faster, but overall, I enjoyed this film. "Invictus" proves that it doesn't take special effects and big action sequences to make a great film. It is excellent to see one of our great old directors to recognize this, and display it so wonderfully without being preachy about it.
Clint Eastwood manages to top himself with this true story of how the
new president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, used the national rugby
team foray into the World Cup to unite his country after years of
apartheid. Eastwood’s soft touch provides a timely but not heavy-handed
message about hope and change that probably won’t be lost on American
audiences. The result is beautiful, exhilarating, and wholly
Mandela, played with effortless dignity by Morgan Freeman, is fresh out of prison and desperate for a way to rebuild his country, which has been torn asunder by the heinous policies of apartheid. Mandela comes to believe that the most sensible way for this to be accomplished is not by making speeches in faraway lands but to give his countrymen something they can all cheer about. His solution is to galvanize the national rugby team, which to date had not been a particularly successful club and had been given very little chance to compete on an international stage like the World Cup. Mandela pins all of his political hopes on the club’s chances; should they fail, he will appear to have behaved frivolously in paying so much attention to a sport, and the black people and the white people would be even farther apart.
The odds were decidedly against the Springboks of South Africa. The team was a certified failure, so much so that the coach had just been axed. Captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) is frustrated. Times are so bad in South Africa that during the team’s matches, the white audience members cheer for South Africa – but the black audience members cheer for the opposition, because the team itself is almost entirely white, with only one black player. Indeed, after Mandela’s election as president, South African groups vote overwhelmingly to drop the traditional rugby nickname “Springboks” as a way to shed themselves of all reminders of the apartheid era. Mandela realizes that such a action would instead drive a further wedge between the two races, so he countermands the local votes and maintains the nickname and the traditional green-and-gold uniforms.
Sports movies in general are expected to follow a particular formula, more so than other films. That is, if we’re met with a ragtag band of sandlot players, we expect them to somehow persevere by the end of the movie. This is one of the few genres in which such predictability is a major plus. Sports movies are meant to manipulate you shamelessly, and you’re a willing, permissive participant. Invictus certainly plucks all the heartstrings it can, but the bonus is that these events actually happened. This isn’t The Mighty Ducks beating the bad guys or Henry Rowengartner’s Cubs winning the World Series, this is a real-life rugby team gaining strength, wisdom, and inspiration from their newly elected president to triumph over steep odds.
That said, this is less a movie about winning the championship and more about unification. Mandela, who had been imprisoned for 27 years, had steep odds of his own to contend with. Although democratically elected, there were still plenty of people throughout the country who really didn’t trust their new leader at all and were convinced that he would lead them all to ruin. (Sounds a little familiar, and I assume that the timing was intentional on the part of Eastwood.) Mandela had to unite everyone, beginning with his own staff, in order for the country to move forward and have a seat at the proverbial international table.
Because of this grand vision, Mandela takes a personal interest in the fortunes of the rugby team, even to the point of rescheduling events so that he can watch the matches either in person or at least on television. He is careful not to intrude too much in the training and management of the team (particularly Pienaar).
Now, granted, this is an American movie made for American audiences, so there are some concessions. For one thing, the rules of rugby have to be mentioned at least once (and not enough, as far as I was concerned); for another, the focus isn’t just on the political machinations and aspirations of Mandela but rather on how the team itself reacts to its new success and the attempts by its captain to inspire them to ever-greater heights. What this slight sleight of hand does is present the idea of postpartheid attitudes in the framework of an athletic event, something American audiences can always care about, no matter the sport. Excellent decision by the director, I think, because the overall message is enhanced, rather than obscured, by the experiences of the Springboks.
Even with the political subtext, and even among sports movies (which themselves are usually very evocative), this is a highly emotional film. The rugby scenes are so well done, so fantastic to watch, that nonfans like me – who don’t know a thing about rugby – can’t help but let down their steely resolve and cynicism. This is a happy, optimistic movie, but it’s not a funny movie. There was hardly a dry eye in the theater today, thanks to the powerful rugby scenes, and I have to admit I haven’t teared up that much at any movie in a long, long time. Eastwood’s strong direction pushes the audience into the right direction, but we go willingly and happily. Freeman is commanding in the role he was always meant to play (Mandela himself wanted Freeman to portray him), and even Damon is excellent as the South African rugby captain. This is a true winner in all aspects of film.
Set in the early to mid 90's, Clint Eastwood's "Invictus" covers the
first year of Nelson Mandela's presidency and how he pushed the
nation's rugby team, led by captain Francois Pienaar, to achieve World
Cup glory. However, Mandela's backing of the rugby team splits many
hairs, as the "Sprinboks" have come to be a symbol of apartheid for
millions of South Africans, making Mandela risk the very base that
pushed him into office. He must also deal with personal security, his
exhaustive schedule, and the strains on his personal life.
As much as I respect Morgan Freeman, I was concerned that his presence would be distracting, that I would be seeing him instead of Nelson Mandela. I shouldn't have worried. Freeman completely immerses himself into the role and gives one of the best performances of the year. Not only are his accent and tone of voice quite good, but he brings a true 3-dimensionality to the role. Compare, for example, him having tea with Francois, to talking with his family, and to making a political speech. Freeman nailed every facet of Mandela's life.
Damon also excels as Pienaar, the solid enough rugby player who must do more than just lead by example for his team. The screenplay, adapted by Anthony Peckham, doesn't offer many narrative surprises, but it does do a good job examining not only the strife South Africa was in when Mandela was elected, but also the value of the team to the entire nation. Eastwood wisely plays the material straight. Though the material may seem familiar, the performances by Damon and especially Freeman are what elevate this tale into a solid and even uplifting drama.
Nelson Mandela has been released from prison and was voted as the South
African president. Wanting to unite his country, he found a way to do
so with rugby and in the South African team captain, Francois Pienaar.
Morgan Freeman was born to play this role, he knew so, and that's why he produced this film. A dream project of his, waiting for someone to take the job of directing, his old friend Clint Eastwood steps in. Who says no to Clint? Especially Freeman, who under Eastwood's direction won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Invictus, William Ernest Henley, which is read by Mandela in the film, is well crafted and has a strong lead role. Unfortunately, the film is a by the numbers product that you seem to forget once you leave the theatre.
My main problem with the film is the lack of emotion. I couldn't care for any of the characters in this film, save for Freeman, who as I stated does an excellent job. Matt Damon, who is shown on the poster, has the supporting role here. But he is given absolutely nothing to do except play rugby. His character has no story to him, but aren't we suppose to believe in him? After all, Mandela does. He gives him inspiration to win the world cup. Matt Damon does an alright job, but nothing worth mentioning. The same goes for the rest of the cast, they seem to be there just because the story is based on real life.
Eastwood knows how to direct a film, the Academy seems to think so too, so you know going into it that it well be well crafted. This is Eastwood's first step into a semi sports movie genre. The sport is rugby, and after watching the film, I still have no idea how to play it. The final act of the game is in slow motion as well, clichéd? You know it. You can hear every grunt from every player. It is elongated to the point of annoyance. The rugby sequences did not pull me in, nor did I care for who was going to win. It doesn't feel like he is trying to step out of his comfort zone either. It feels like an Eastwood movie, take that as you want.
The best parts of the film, are when Freeman commands the screen. His presence is more interesting and entertaining than any of the rugby scenes. Speaking of a rugby scenes, I must say that every 'epic' shot of the fans in the stands looked horribly fake. At some points I thought I was watching a PS3 game. It really took me out of the experience of the film.
If the film were a bit shorter and more focused (is it a sports film or character driven film?) than I could maybe invest my interest. It seemed to balance both as nice as it could, but ultimately gave out to one more than the other and unfortunately it's the weaker part. Eastwood chooses to sidestep more important things in the film. Is this because of the script? Are we suppose to want to keep watching Mandela inspire a rugby team to unite nation? The racial undertones are there at the beginning, then completely forgotten. In the end, I wanted more from this film.
The film is not bad, it's moderately good. Some scenes are actually inspiring, but that's more because of Freeman and not the generic script. I guess I wanted a little bit more from this one. Everyone involved made it seem like it should have been a great success, instead it comes off as something that everyone just decided to throw together. This is another film that belongs in that category of good, but not good enough for me to want to recommend it to you for theatre viewing.
I must confess that I am a great fan of Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman an Matt Damon (not necessarily in this order), but what impressed me most in this movie was the story (and if it was real, much better!). We can learn from this story that not revenge, but forgiveness is the most powerful weapon of our beings. Seeing this picture movie I realized how difficult was for Mandela to prevent a civil war or even a riot on such a drastic change of regimes. For those who lived under hard circumstances (like apartheid, communism or so called socialism) is much easier to understand the subtlety of the story, and more than that, this movie is a must see. That's one of the reasons I rate it 10 out of 10.
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