Invictus (2009) Poster

(2009)

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8/10
As a South African, I can tell you the entertaining, inspiring and enjoyable "Invictus" exceeded all my expectations.
JeffersonCody13 December 2009
As a South African who saw this film on Friday morning, I can tell you you the entertaining, inspiring and enjoyable "Invictus" exceeded all my expectations.

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.
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9/10
One of Clint's Best...
Clayton Davis4 December 2009
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.

****/****
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10/10
Inspiring and uplifting!
jdkraus11 December 2009
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.
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8/10
Strong themes overcome predictable plotting
C-Younkin9 December 2009
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.
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8/10
Morgan Freeman shines in Clint Eastwood's solid drama
wolverinesforever12 December 2009
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.
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10/10
Just one great film
artzau11 December 2009
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.
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8/10
Freeman is great as Mandela
eastbergholt200212 December 2009
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.
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10/10
This is the greatest inspirational movie
nicms991 May 2010
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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10/10
Inspirational
Dan Franzen (dfranzen70)12 December 2009
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 inspirational.

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.
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6/10
Well Made, But Completely Forgettable
Matt_Layden17 December 2009
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.
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9/10
An event that helped shape a nation
Wibola16 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
From a close intimate encounter with one of the greatest leaders of our time, to a big joyful sports event that helped shape a nation, Invictus will take you on a journey of discovery of the crucial elements that inspire us in life. In the early 1990's the world went through major political changes that were coming in the wake of the walls falling in Berlin in August 1989. In 1990 Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison. In 1994 he was elected the President of South Africa. Invictus takes us back to 1995, just one year after Mandela was elected president, in a time when he struggled to gain the confidence of the white population and had to live up to the expectations of the blacks. South Africa is the host country for the upcoming Rugby World Cup and Nelson Mandela cease the opportunity to make this event, and the nations Rugby team "the Springboks", a catalyst for uniting the nation. Clint Eastwood brings us into the world of Mandela and show us a man that is torn between the love of his country and the love of his family. Eastwood manages to create a good balance of personal reflections and the public difficulties that Mandela faced at this time. The overall atmosphere of the movie is quite uplifting in contrast to what is characteristic about Eastwood's movies such as the gloomy setting in Mystic River or the melancholic sports drama in Million Dollar Baby. Mandela is played by Morgan Freeman who has studied Mandela in great detail and spend much time with him in real life. His work sure paid off as he comes off the screen as the real soft spoken and yet authoritative leader we all know so well. The other important character in the movie is the Springboks captain Francois Pienaar. Pienaar is played by Matt Damon that does a good job of showing the white man's perspective and help us realize the questions that runs through his mind in his search for understanding the changes his the country is going through with Mandela as the new leader.

The real life story that Invictus is based upon, recorded by the journalist John Carlin's in his book "Playing the enemy", makes this one of the best biography movie I have seen this year. It does not try to explain all of Mandela's life but give us a glimpse into a crucial moment in his life and help us understand the qualities that made him a great leader and what ultimately made him the man elected by blacks and whites to unite South Africa.
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10/10
A marvelous film to flash us back to South Africa's most precious historical moments...
janyeap8 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Indeed, a lovely and feel good movie that reminds us how a nation so stricken by apartheid and rebellions, and 14,000 civilians dead, is able to heal, and its turning point in history in reconciliation and strife for democracy. Director Clint Eastwood's film does pay tribute to both Nelson Mandela and the captain of the previously hated Springboks rugby team, Francois Pienaar for the Springboks's epic win against New Zealand's All Blacks with the final 15-12 score at the 1995 World Rugby Cup, as well as for their initiating the first major step towards white and black South Africans living together in acceptance. And that famous hand shake we see in the film really does speak a lot.

The match between the two teams at Johannesburg's Ellis Park Stadium in 1995 is so phenomenally presented on screen. Boy, it does look so real that I can't help myself cheering for the Springboks as if it's a life event! Eastwood, too, brings humor in the film. Boy, that famous moment with the All Black's gigantic superstar being tackled near the try-line by the big size Springboks defender! And the black and white Presidential guards gradually building up their trust in one another! These are so captivatingly funny. And with minutes ticking and Stransky does his amazing kick, sending the ball almost 100 ft to strike the drop goal to deliver the final score for Springboks' victory is so stunningly awesome! Fabulous film direction from Director Eastwood! The scenes with Matt Damon's visit to the prison are extraordinarily chilling, and fabulously crafted... reminding the viewers of the 27 yeas of prison and hard labor Mandela had to go through in his fight for his people's freedom against the NP's apartheid programs. Director Eastwood's film offers incredible spot on with facts, to include the Springboks' green and gold jerseys with their Springbok and Protea emblems! And, after the Springboks made their epic win over the All Blacks, watching Morgan Freeman's Mandela presenting the trophy to Matt Damon's Francois Pienaar while wearing a Springbok shirt with Pienaar's own number 6 on the back, it's impossible not to be touched by that scene. Indeed, the many, who had watched that particular match in 1995 Rugby World Cup, can relate to that scene as seen live on TV worldwide.

Morgan Freeman does play Mandela to a tee, Mandela's frailty, his gait, his charm and the way Mandela talks and smiles! And Damon is also no lesser credible as an Afrikaner rugby captain! Anyone familiar with Francois Pienaar would be able see Damon and Pienaar's physical builds are pretty similar. Boy, oh boy, do I love his Afrikaner accent! Indeed, my best feature film seen so far for the Oscar race. A true work of artistic film-making value that superbly unfolds South Africa's major historical events and moments! To observe the faces of hope on screen is so heartwarming. I certainly hope that this film and both Freeman and Damon would be getting Oscar nominations.

I really can't wait to get all my family members and friends to see this film! Best feature film I've so far seen for the Oscar race!
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10/10
That film takes you by what you have most private, your soul
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU7 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Clint Eastwood was probably the only filmmaker who could produce a film on Nelson Mandela that centered on a side event that became a major initiative in the history of South Africa and the world. He chose to center the film on the Springboks and their victory in the World Cup of 1995. That was a brilliant idea since it showed Mandela as a real transformer of human beings. It also brilliantly proves man does not make history. A certain thickness of imbecility was needed to pile up in the minds of some not to see that the enslaved majority of the South African population could not remain slaves for ever. Let my people go. The choice, if it is a choice and not the only logical sequel of the fifty preceding years that Mandela does was to center his own action on a sports event that could unify the people in a victory. And we can see how little it takes to attract the attention and the heart of the other, a cup of tea for instance served by the President to his guest François, like Jesus washing the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper, though forgiveness is not that easy, and yet easier for the victims of the bad treatment than for the people who inflicted that bad treatment. Those had to become aware of the hardship of that treatment to finally be conscious enough to forgive themselves and to forgive the victims. Clint Eastwood then adds some symbols to strike our eyes: the little black boy carried by the white cops on their shoulders after the victory. The green Springboks cap Mandela is wearing at the end, not as a provocation of the All Blacks, but as a symbol of his support to his team and as a symbol of the unity of the country around their team. This film is first of all emotional for us who have lived these dark years and harbored for a night or several some AWOL special force soldiers who were deserting apartheid. And how many pages of ANC press releases have we translated for the whole world to know about their fight. And yet we wonder at the end who is the main character of this story. Nelson Mandela or François Pienaar. This appears clearly in the remarks these two exchange when Mandela gives the cup to François. "Thank you François for what you have done for South Africa." "No, Mister President thank you for what you have done for South Africa." And the green Springboks cap Nelson Mandela wears all the time is not a provocation to the All Blacks, but the sign of his support to his team, and the symbol of the reunification of South Africa thanks to that sports event. Then the answer François makes to the journalist when this one asks him if he was encourage in his fight by the 63,000 people in the Stadium, is prophetic: "We were not supported by 63,000 people but by the 43 million South Africans." That makes us very humble in front of history that no one can stop, than some can only slow down, ,and some others encourage and help in its own direction. And we will forget Henry Kissinger's answer when he refused to support Nelson Mandela, the political prisoner that he accused of being a communist. One of these details in history that get lost in the pages of some encyclopedia and then is forgotten by humanity.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID
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10/10
A Nutshell Review: Invictus
DICK STEEL2 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
In his last 2 films, Clint Eastwood addressed the challenges one person faced against a corrupt, established system in the Changeling, and in Gran Torino, took on racism head on with himself starring in the lead role. With Invictus, I felt that it combined his last two films into one, with another veteran actor Morgan Freeman stepping into an historical role as Nelson Mandela, at a time just after being elected and faced with a deeply divided society across racial lines. This is not your usual run-of-the-mill biopic, and you can trust the award winning filmmaker to weave yet another wonderful, engaging film.

Set in a time just after Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and elected President of a post-apartheid South Africa still fresh from its racial, divisive wounds, the story based upon John Carlin's book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Changed a Nation, traces the parallels in the challenges that Mandela had in governing a new country whose citizens still harbour deep, resentful mistrust against those of a different skin colour, with that against South Africa's national rugby team, known as the Springboks, in their uphill quest for World Cup glory, having initially been written off as no-hopers in the tournament.

We all know how sports can bring people of all races, class and all strata of society together, galvanized behind a winning team and celebrating victories as a nation. In fact, we've seen it for ourselves in our early days of nationhood, with Kallang being the battleground in which folks come together to cheer our football team on, regardless of race, language and religion. The same can be said here, where Mandela, with so much on his plate, chose to put some focus on the Springboks in their World Cup journey, knowing that his plan, trivial though crazy as it may seem at first, had all the foresight in knowing that reconciliation as a nation is within reach. All that's needed is for team captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to believe he and his team can deliver.

Part of what contributed to this masterpiece is that the lead actors Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon both disappear into their roles. I've said enough thus far that Morgan Freeman remains one of my favourite character actors, though his role as this historical political figure, takes the cake. He took great pains to study the mannerisms of the man he's portraying and the result is magnificent, with what I've garnered from news reels on even his speech patterns gotten right down to a pat. As a man who walks the talk, we see this through the appointment of his security detail, as well as how he engages his back office team to look beyond skin colour, and to focus on ability instead, to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. This cinematic Mandela is as great an orator as the current US President, though at times when Eastwood tries a little too hard to force the messages of peace and forgiveness through, the speeches, monologues or dialogues do seem a tad heavy handed.

Audiences would likely be more familiar with Matt Damon's action role as Jason Bourne, though he has proved his acting chops through the Ocean Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen series, and his weight gain to play The Informant! Here he converts those fats into muscle mass to play rugby player Pienaar, though he had to rely on camera tricks and angles to make him look a lot bigger than he actually is. With his hair dyed blonde and new found bulk, he does look believable as he is charismatic in trying to also walk what Mandela has talked to him about, with responsibilities on the pitch to galvanize a team into believing they've got a shot at the largest trophy of their sport.

For all the economical minimalist that Clint Eastwood is reputedly touted for in his films, when it comes to the crunch he too does demonstrate that he's up to the mark in delivering epics based on history, such as his WWII magnum opus seen from both warring perspectives. A remarkable thing here about the film is that there's not a single, actual archived footage that was used (as far as I can tell), save some static photos in the end credits. Everything got recreated, right down to the exhilarating rugby games against the English, West Samoans, French and the famed New Zealand All Blacks (Check out that Jonah Lomu lookalike, and that Haka!) and the way Rugby got shot here will leave a fine impression on you, if not turn you into a fan of the game in the shortest time possible.

But what was real, was a powerful scene which was set in the actual cell that Mandela was incarcerated for years, where if I were to be put inside that same cell, I'd probably go insane given its bareness, as well as not being able to gaze outside and smell fresh air, unless to perform hard labour. It's an emotional sequence and one that will allow you to appreciate just how magnanimous Mandela was when he got released, versus the very human trait of wanting to seek revenge for injustice done against oneself.

Language wise, it may be a little difficult to listen to the South African accented English at times, but don't let that turn you off. It's another World Cup this year, football's that is, which will be held in South Africa, but before that swings by in Summer, make time for Invictus, and you'll be rewarded with yet another fine film from a director whose craft ages like fine wine, with masterful performances and an engaging storyline. Highly recommended!
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1/10
pure fantasy
locutas24 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
this film may have good actor's good script etc, but the emotion's the film brings are false, no where does it mention the fact that the strongest team "the All Blacks" at the 95 rugby world cup were poisoned (i wonder if the story would have the same feeling watching morgan freeman giving the order to have the top team taken out...also the spring bok's won by "1 point" and you can see in the real footage how ill the all black's are...it truly annoy's that people can call it a true story but this one is far from it...a waste of time and money..could have told a "True story" but that wouldn't be Hollywood would it....-5 out of 10
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10/10
A superb movie about the power of personal character to influence a nation
tucsonkent22 December 2009
Don't miss this inspiring movie! The acting is superb. Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon become their characters. The attitudes of Damon's family help to exemplify the resistance to change. The attitudes of the South African blacks toward the mostly white South African rugby team reflects the deeply held anger of people who have suffered repression for generations.

The movie is a testament to the power of courageous personal character, when it is grounded in respectfulness and pragmatism, to inspire others to change attitudes that are deeply held.

The use of rugby as a tool to effect change is most appropriate. Clearly, everyone in the country cares deeply about the sport. The sport itself is quite brutal. Clint Eastwood does a superb job of conveying this element of the sport, as well as the importance of attitude in influencing a team's performance.
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1/10
Turning Your Back on Terror and Torture
vitaleralphlouis28 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Nelson and Winnie Mandella may be heroes to uninformed or hypocritical liberals, but well-informed people know that during the 1980's and 1990's numerous black citizens who dared to oppose, or being suspected of opposing, the Mandella's ANC Party in South Africa were tortured to death by "necklacing."

Necklacing is the practice of taking a person who disagrees with you politically and placing an old rubber tire filled with kerosene around their shoulders and setting it on fire. The torture-death normally lasts about 20 minutes.

Although this was done by black South Africans against other black South Africans dozens of times, others who opposed the Mandellas were taken care of by Winnie's "ball team" -- thugs who did not play sports but rather used baseball bats to club dissenters to a tortured death.

Oddly, American liberals who blab-on about inmates at Gitmo being subjected to loud music or other inconveniences; they find no fault with the Mandellas ANC torture practices -- or they pretend to know nothing about them. A simple Google search for "necklacing" would tell them all about it -- as would reading a newspaper -- but persons bent on ignorance will never make such a search.

Now we have Nelson Mandella portrayed in saint-like fashion by no less than Morgan Freeman. Shame on Clint Eastwood for making this deceitful movie.
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2/10
Clunky, chunky, cliché... I had to turn it off
sioenroux22 January 2010
I didn't begin watching "Invictus" with any hopes of seeing something unique, edgy or original -- after all, a bare sketch of the plot tells you this is another of the "Can-the-sports-team-make-it-against-the-odds? Oh-it-will-be-tough-but-in-the-end they'll-all-be-better-people-because-of-the-struggle" genre.

I had hopes that with Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, it might rise above the cliché formula. No, it didn't. They are both OK, but not nearly OK enough to save this clunker.

The level of Hollywood formula is off the charts. Every camera angle, every scene, you can predict with startling accuracy. That doesn't necessarily have to doom a movie (although for me, it pretty much does, because I hate nothing so much as predictability, especially scene by scene), but here it's just so pat you wonder if Clint Eastwood was sleeping through the whole thing.

What really sunk this film for me, though -- I mean, I rarely ever turn off a movie, and I could only handle this one for 20 minutes, after which I used FF and skimmed a few scenes along the way to see it through to the 'exciting' conclusion -- was the incredibly awful dialogue. Awful. Stilted. Ham-fisted. Sounded like a bad Hallmark afterschool special writer had come up with it. Really really bad.

I like Morgan Freeman a lot. In fact, in the past, I had jokingly said to friends that I could listen to him read the telephone book because I like the way he delivers lines. I am reconsidering that joke. "We must (pause) work together (pause) if we are (pause) going to (pause) rebuild our country." Repeat that line about 80 times in the first 15 minutes. With the same awkward pauses. Maybe this was Freeman capturing Mandela really well -- I don't know. What I do know is it was awful to try to watch.

In any case, let me submit for your consideration that you save your time. If you read the plot synopsis and look at the poster, you'll already have as full an experience as this movie is capable of delivering.
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1/10
Invictus Turns The Truly Inspiring Nelson Mandela Into A Platitude Mouthing Yoda-like Character.
Michael McGonigle15 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I recently celebrated a milestone birthday. As I reflected upon the day, I thought about the sheer number of unlikely things that have occurred in my lifetime.

Back when I was ten, the idea that Great Britain and the IRA would ever achieve a ceasefire was, at best, a dim prospect. Likewise, no one thought the USSR would ever dissolve or that the Berlin Wall would be dismantled and the idea that a black man would one day be elected President of the USA was given about as much a chance of happening as finding two identical snowflakes.

The thought that South Africa, a county where racism WAS the official government policy would ever end its evil apartheid ways was almost inconceivable. Adding to that, the fact that the citizens of South Africa elected themselves a black president was an almost unbelievable turn of events.

Then, in order to prevent his country from devolving into resentment and revenge, President Nelson Mandela (a believer in the power of forgiveness) established the Truth And Reconciliation Commission where people could admit to their past racist misdeeds and then be publicly forgiven.

This showed me that the people of South Africa, both black and white have achieved a level of grace and civility that we Americans can only dream about.

If you don't believe me, just listen to any Teabagger or wingnut religious conservative on contemporary talk radio. You won't hear more foolish hateful nonsense this side of a fascist dictator. However, what the real Nelson Mandela did to avoid the potential revenge and recriminations of the people is an inspiring story that truly gives me hope for mankind.

So how come Invictus proved to be one of the most annoying experiences I have spent in a movie theater in a long time? Was it because director Clint Eastwood has reduced Nelson Mandela to a supporting player in his own life and instead focused his film on a white rugby team?

Was it because he turned Nelson Mandela into a Yoda-like character sputtering out banal philosophy that would embarrass even the flightiest of New Age nit-wits, or even a serious New Age nit-wit like Deepak Chopra? I mean, what has happened to Clint Eastwood?

How can it be that after directing about 30+ feature films, Eastwood still has not developed any kind of camera sense. I find it hard to accept the sloppy choices of angles and coverage in Eastwood's films, especially since he usually works with very competent cinematographers and editors.

Every poignant plot point is telegraphed well in advance, so any chance of surprise or insight is muffed. Is this what his vast experience in the film industry has taught him?

Clint Eastwood has spoken with admiration of some of the directors he has worked with in the past, like the Hollywood studio trained minimalist Don Siegel and the operatic Italian Sergio Leone, in fact, he's even dedicated films to those two masters. Why Clint Eastwood now desires to direct films like Ron Howard is a true mystery.

But there are a couple of things in Invictus that even the anemically talented Ron Howard would never have done. For instance, what's with all the musical montages that serve no purpose but to slow down an already leaden pace?

What's with the unforgivable instance of showing a massive jet liner buzzing the rugby stadium during the final game? Now, I know that the plane buzzing actually happened, but Eastwood uses this incident as a way to instantly tap into our post 9/11 awareness of planes flying into buildings for terroristic purposes to create a false moment of tension.

I mean, even the most xenophobic American who cares not one whit about what happens outside the borders of the continental United States would have at least heard about a jet liner crashing into a rugby stadium in South Africa during the World Cup game, which, by the way, is actually played for by teams from around the world, most unlike our own masturbatory baseball World Series where we even celebrate the lunacy of two teams from the same city competing with each other, as if this were something culturally significant.

I could have told Eastwood that he was on a fool's errand if he was specifically trying to make an inspirational movie. If an audience finds some kind of inspiration from your film, that's great, but they are the only ones who can do that.

If you try to impose that feeling on people, you will just end up sounding preachy and scolding and believe me, the only thing worse than false sincerity is false inspiration.

Invictus is a two hour plus scolding lesson full of inspirational haranguing that has the effect of pummeling you into brain dead, but laudatory submission. But, when the whole damn fool audience is cheering at the most cliché of sport movie banalities, it is easier to just flow with the crowd.

Although not explained clearly, the title Invictus is Latin for "unconquered" and is the title of a famous poem by William Ernest Hensly that ends with the lines "I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."

Apparently, Nelson Mandela used to recite the poem to himself during his long imprisonment to help keep himself sane. But there is a more recent use of the poem Invictus that deserves to be mentioned.

It seems that when Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001, he used the Hensley poem Invictus as his final statement. Why do I find that coincidence much more interesting and intriguing than this film? But hey, if it's inspiring enough for Timothy McVeigh, who am I to argue?
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2/10
Don't believe the hype!
breadandroses2214 December 2009
"Invictus" is the Disney version of apartheid -- shallow, simplistic, and very disappointing. There is little suspense, and worse, next to no acknowledgment of South Africa's heroic efforts to face down its past. It's all rugby and Mandela all the time. The screenplay, with its "Attaboy" dialogue, reads like a 1940s baseball movie. Morgan Freeman's Mandela is stirring but Matt Damon's character is a cipher. And everyone else is just a face in the crowd, including the beautiful country of South Africa. This feel-good approach will no doubt play well in the multi-plexes, but Eastwood's fans deserve more nuance and more thought.
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5/10
Sadly disappointing
Barky443 January 2010
I'm very sorry to say it, especially because this film was created by talented folks such as Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood, but "Invictus" is terribly disappointing.

Nelson Mandela is a tremendously important figure in 20th Century history. His inspiring story affects not just South Africans but all of us. He deserves a film of the same emotional caliber as "Ghandi" was for Mahatma and "Kundun" was for the Dalai Lama. But "Invictus" falls flat and fails to live up to that standard. This is an incredible shame, too, for if IMDb Trivia is to be believed, Mandela himself believed that the world cup rugby story sums up his history, charisma, and leadership quite nicely and would make for a good film.

There are multiple problems with this film. First and foremost is the pacing. This movie is so dull, so lifeless, it clumsily plods along from one meeting to another with barely an emotional center at all. The script and the direction are the culprits here: too much idle chit chat. The biggest problem is the focus on the security detail. Fully 1/3 of the film is devoted to these chaps for no reason! There's little payoff for all that time investment. They should have been relegated to the sidelines, providing their one redeeming quality in this film: much-needed comic relief.

Next is Matt Damon. Now I am far from a Matt Damon basher, I think he's a fine actor and never find him to be an ego distraction like so many other stars. But he adds very little to this story, his character could also have been sidelined. It seems like the producers wanted star power to get this project off the ground so they fished around for a big-name white star to give the film some cred and hopefully an audience.

Then there's rugby itself. This has to be one of the worst sports movies ever made in terms of not engendering interest in the sport itself. I think "MIghty Ducks" did more to promote hockey than "Invictus" did to promote rugby. A sports movie should engage and excite the viewer. This one simply showed the stereotype that rugby is a brutal, pointless sport. I doubt there will be many kids lining up to learn rugby as a result of this film.

Most aggravating is something the film LACKS. One of the most inspiring things to ever come out of Africa is the music. Where are the great African rhythms? This soundtrack, and the use of music throughout the film, is terrible. There's even this full-blown American pop number in the middle of it. None of the great, traditional, powerful, inspirational African music is in this film at all, and that really bothers me.

This is a crying shame. Nelson Mandela's story needs to be told. "Invictus" fails to tell it well.
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6/10
Great work from Freeman and the story, but everything else feels average or amateur at best
DonFishies17 December 2009
While not exactly a biopic per se, Invictus does tell an important piece of Nelson Mandela's (Morgan Freeman) life as President of South Africa. With the country's rugby team losing horribly match after match, he looks to Captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to help unite the team in time for the country's hosting duties of the 1995 World Cup, and in turn, unite a country still reeling from apartheid.

Clint Eastwood continues to defy all Hollywood conventions with Invictus, his ninth film of the decade. The man is going on 80, but he is pumping out more movies than heavyweights like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. And with each passing film, he continues to up his craft and his scope for what he is capturing on screen. While Invictus is nowhere near the epic undertaking of the twofer of Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, it still stands as a very accomplished work. But much like Flags, it is a very flawed work.

The story itself is fairly well done. It is predictable of course, but is sappy in some wrong places. It is not quite Remember the Titans for adults like I heard it described as, but it borders on feeling much the same way. I find it interesting that the first real story we get about Mandela dramatized on screen is more about rugby than it is about the man, but Eastwood presents it in such a fascinating way that it manages to work as a depiction of him. There is a great reverence on display from the beginning, with actual TV footage digitally manipulated to add in Freeman over the real Mandela, and at every turn, the story stays consistent with these early images. It jumps around in focus between Mandela and Pienaar, but it never feels bothersome and always feels like a well rounded tale. Unfortunately, that tale does not always stay as interesting as it could.

But while the story is not bad, the editing is all over the place. After really beginning to hit his stride, Eastwood seems to be falling back and looking more amateur in some of the scenes on display here. Some run too long, others too short. Others are left far too open ended, and some too preachy. Even worse, some scenes have characters fading in and out like ghosts, pushing a heavy handed message about the unfairness of the system too far. Having seen his previous work, it is clear Eastwood knows better than this, so why allow these elements to take away from what could be a fantastic piece of work?

The ending rugby match that seems to run on forever has a lengthy period of time where everything runs in slow motion. While this is typical for a sports film, especially for the team playing, Eastwood makes everything run in slow motion: the team, the fans watching in the stadium, the fans at home and at bars, Mandela himself. And it runs for more than five minutes like this, overkilling and destroying any suspense or tension the film has going for it because the audience begins to laugh at how ridiculous the scene looks. It reminded me a lot of what I can only explain as the 'Gatorade' sequence from Spielberg's Munich, where one of the most intense scenes in the film is ruined by a goofy slow motion sequence. It takes you right out of the movie; the last thing any filmmaker wants to see happen.

The music fares even worse. While the African inspired songs that play throughout the film are very well used in their sequences, there are a few English-speaking songs that are just wrong for the film. Thankfully Eastwood does not sing any himself (unlike the hilariously bad tune that nearly ruins Gran Torino), but the lyrics are just awful. Again, they took me right out of the film, and made me laugh more than anything. They may help describe what is going on, but in the forms they are given to us, they do nothing but take away from everything. While I was a little disappointed to hear another similar Eastwood score in other cases, the addition of an African influence causes the score to sound all the better and more original. The man can only use a similar score for so many films before it becomes stale, and thankfully it is altered to sound all the more unique.

While his accent is not perfect, Freeman delivers another fabulous performance. The man may be ageing as quickly as Eastwood, but his technique never wavers. His soft spoken and generous nature is only complimented by how easily he slips into the character. He has just the right amount of power and gravitas in each scene that it is hard to realize it is not actually Mandela playing himself on screen. It is a very personal performance that is just as inspiring as it looks. It is not the performance of the year, but it comes really close to competing with it.

Damon on the other hand, does not fare so well. He just does not come off as believable as the rugby team's Captain. His accent falls somewhere between Freeman's great accent here and Nicole Kidman's horrible attempt at Italian in Nine. But even despite that, his character is just not compelling enough to make us really care about his struggle to help Mandela achieve his goals. When he does make it work, he does well for himself. But those moments come too few and far between.

I wanted to like Invictus more than I did. Freeman delivers, and the story is fairly well done as well. But the rest just feels either average or amateur at best. The film is not bad, but it could have been significantly better edited.

6.5/10.
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2/10
Eastwood, Freeman and Damon equals BOREFEST
chrisinaltoona19 December 2009
Not only does this movie lack excitement of any kind, it dumbs down the apartheid issue, among others, to some silly game that nobody cares about. What on earth is Eastwood thinking here? It's like he has become a preacher, it's a total sermon instead of a story, one could not find this interesting even if it had Eastwood come out at the end running across the field with his .44 magnum shooting at Freeman while he blocked the rounds with Damon's ball. Just a waste of over 2hours. If one is going to tell a story, tell it like you mean it. This is a movie about sports, not life! Very disappointed, the ending was like a long drawn out conversation with a dirty wall. One of Eastwood's worst! How this is getting ratings of 7.5 I have no idea.
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9/10
Invictus: a story of forgiveness
Mark_Burton11 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Invictus explains how Nelson Mandela used the 1995 Rugby World Cup to unite his country racially divided after years of apartheid. Clint Eastwood decided not to focus on Mandela's life but rather on his action as South Africa president. It's a story about forgiveness, greatness and the way to stop racism.

Nelson Mandela is perfectly played by Morgan Freeman who demonstrates one more time that he's a Hollywood living legend. Here, his "greatness" is partly linked to the marvellous lines which seemed written by Mandela himself: full of wisdom, full of love, translating his philosophy of life. Matt Damon makes a good job as Pienaar, despite some other comments I have read. I've particularly appreciated his work on accent. Second roles are also well-played with special mention to Tony Kgoroge (chief of black bodyguards) and Adjoah Andoh (Mandela's Chief of Staff).

The script remembers Million Dollar Baby as sport is only an excuse to focus on deeper subjects. I really loved the scene where the black bodyguards met for the first time their white colleagues to make a unified team, or the first meeting between Mandela and Pienaar, around a cup of tea, with Mandela explaining how to inspire and bring people to greatness.

I'm more and more convinced that Clint Eastwood is one of the best directors in Hollywood. This movie, as his previous ones, is simple but so inspiring. If you loved Million Dollar Baby or Changelling, you will love this one. To conclude, Invictus is one of Clint Eastwood's best movies with an incredible performance by Morgan Freeman and a deep philosophy of life which should inspire all of us.

***1/2 out of ****
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9/10
Sentimental But Never Sappy Sports Saga
zardoz-1314 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Morgan Freeman has so much talent that he makes acting look easy. In director Clint Eastwood's latest movie "Invictus," based on John Carlin's non-fiction book "Playing the Enemy," Freeman impersonates controversial South African President Nelson Mandela. Interestingly, Mandela said that Freeman was the only actor who he felt could do him justice on the big-screen. Basically, this inspirational sports saga about rugby concerns more than just capturing the 1995 World Cup. "Sherlock Holmes" scenarist Anthony Peckham and Eastwood have produced a solemn, straightforward, but contemplative film about how Mandela shrewdly appropriated a hated symbol of apartheid and wielded it so that he could unite a racially torn nation. In other words, the savvy politician pulled the ultimate public relations ploy and used a rugby team. This factual social activist melodrama with its liberal perspective seems rather predictable at times, but it is remains nevertheless as reassuring as it is absorbing. Essentially, two minds meet in "Invictus" and forge a change that solidified a country. The performances by Morgan Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as a conscientious rugby coach are flawless. Damon appears physically fit for such a demanding role and his accent sounds reasonable. Some scenes seem almost too good to be true, particularly the camaraderie between a young black teen and two gruff-looking South African beat cops during the World Cup game. Unlike most sports films, "Invictus" dwells more on how the game of rugby engineered racial harmony in a repressive society than about the game itself.

After 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman of "Unforgiven") emerges and wins the presidency of South Africa. Mandela's victory ushered in many striking changes, and his fellow blacks wanted to disband the South African team, the Springboks, because it reminded them of racial oppression. No sooner does Mandela hear about this rash decision than he races out to appeal to his constituents about the error of their ways. Of course, they hate the Springboks, but Mandela urges them to support him and his request to leave the Springboks alone. Mandela convinces them that this represents a splendid opportunity to allay white fears about black power. Initially, Mandela's closest adviser warns him about this kind of activism. Meanwhile, the Springboks are doing themselves no favors with their abysmal performance on the playing fields. A Mandela adviser observes that winning the World Cup would create a lot of ppsitive publicity for the new government and Mandela summons blond Afrikaner, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon of "The Bourne Ultimatum") who bears no political crosses, and encourage him to win the World Cup. The messiah-like Mandela exerts considerable influence on Pienaar and the coach takes his pampered team on promotional tours into the most squalid of black ghettos to teach the children the basics of the game. Early in "Invictus," one of Mandela's white bodyguards describes to his black cohorts the essentials of rugby: "Soccer is a gentleman's game played by hooligans, rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen." When Peckham and Eastwood aren't concentrating on Mandela's cagey political maneuvers, they depict the changes that occurred all over South Africa with a subplot about the president's integrated team of bodyguards. Mandela's chief of security had requested more bodyguards, so the president obliges him with British-trained, Afrikaner cops. Indeed, Mandela discourages any whites from leaving government service because he needs them as examples of unity within his administration. Time gradually erodes white anxieties about black aspirations as reflected by grudging cooperation between the black and white bodyguards. Again, rugby takes center stage with the whites explaining the rules of rugby to their colleagues.

Nelson Mandela comes off looking as slippery as James Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Mandela doesn't miss a trick in his political calculations and he impresses his closest adviser. Indeed, Mandela emerges in "Invictus" as an Abraham Lincoln of sorts. He survived 24 years of brutal, back-breaking imprisonment on an island and slept on a mat for a bed. This same individual, who endured enormous hardship, later ascended from the lowest position in society—a prison inmate—and attained the highest post—president of the same country that had incarnated him. Mandela realized from his pinnacle of power that the only way to thwart an immanent civil war that threatened to tear South Africa apart that he had to exercise accommodation toward his fellow whites.

Wisely, director Clint Eastwood doesn't have much truck with politics in "Invictus." Peckham and he provide the basic ground work about the sudden changes that rocked South Africa with Mandela's election as president. They present us with the struggles that the Springbox with their green and gold outfits endure. Mandela demonstrates true insight into his fellow men when he decides to let a predominantly white rugby team become a rallying cry for intolerance and unity. No, "Invictus" is not the kind of movie that you would expect from Clint Eastwood and—like his protagonist who prefers to make risks—Eastwood has helmed and honed another classic. "Invictus" ranks as a sentimental sports saga that never gets sappy. Incidentally, "Invictus" translated means invincible.
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