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The power of sport

Author: freemantle_uk from United Kingdom
17 February 2010

To make a good sports film you need a top class director, talented actors, and a theme that is more then the sport. Invictus is a film with ambitions of not just telling the story about how South Africa won the Rugby World Cup in 1995, but also about the early days of Nelson Mandala's presidency and the importance of the events for the new South Africa.

In 1994, Nelson Mandala (Morgan Freeman) is elected to be president of South Africa. Mandala starts a reconciliation process, after members of former Apartheid government to remain in their jobs if they wanted to. He also brought in members of the Apartheid security services to act as his bodyguards with his ANC bodyguards. Despite these efforts and his popularity, he still needs to find of uniting Black people who do not want Mandala to sell out and ensure he can provide on issues like crime, housing and social cares, whilst to reassure the White population that he isn't going to attack them and wants them to be a part of the new South Africa, and wants them to contribute. Mandala sees the best way to unite the nation is by sport, a weapon that was used against the Apartheid government with a boycott. South Africa had been picked to host the Rugby World Cup. But the South African rugby team, the Springbok, are unfit, lack experience and lack support of the Black population. They are calls to rename, and change the colours of the Springbok. But Mandala prevents this, and he asks the team's captain François Pienaar (Matt Damon) to inspire his team.

This is two films in one, a political film/bio-pic about Mandala trying to change South Africa and avoid either one race dominating the other, and of course a sport film about how an underdog defincing the odds. It took great skill by the screenwriter Anthony Peckham and the director Clint Eastwood. The political story is the most interesting aspect, with Mandala doing a forgive and forget reconciliation process, similar to Konrad Adenauer in West Germany after the Second World War. The ideas is for successful transition a government then you need to keep the same structure and allow professional civil servants to remind in their positions. Compare this to Post war Iraq where all the government system was dismantled, and all Ba'ath party members were executed from system, and helping turn that nation into right royal mess. There is also a financial reason why Mandala wanted to win over the whites, because they controlled the purse strings of South Africa, and also control the police and army. Mandala is shown to be a very intelligent man, who calmly argues his case and goes against easy political populism because he wants to improve South Africa for the long team. But he is also a man with family troubles and health issues, but wants to do the best for his country. The World Cup story is about how the underdogs of the whole tournament won, beating the likes of France and Australia. Pienaar and Mandala have to lead the team both on and off the field against tough competition. Their efforts help unite the nation. This is a cleaver film that tells this story. Fans of political films will like it. Fans of rugby will like it.

As well as the story, there are two great leads, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. Morgan Freeman is the only Hollywood actor who could Mandala, having both the look, and the acting talent. He plays Mandala as an intelligent, insightful man who is committed on improving his nation. He is quick witted, and they is a tragedy about his family problems. Freeman does do the Mandala voice well most of the time, but there are some moments where his voices slips into sounding like Red from the Shawshank Redemption. Matt Damon also does a good job playing a man who is less insightful, but a good sportsman and a good leader. He is one of the few White South Africans who isn't hostile to Mandala's presidency. Matt Damon builds up really well to play a professional rugby player, and does a believable South African accent. It's a shame there wasn't more of him in the film.

Clint Eastwood is obviously one of the best directors in Hollywood, having directed films like Unforgiven and Letter from Iwo Jima. But I think his direction of this film would be no different to any decent director, particularly the political scenes. But the rugby scenes are very good, from feeling like you are either in the stadium, watching from the stands, to being in the heart of the action. For an American Eastwood has a good understanding of the sport. I also liked that he casted former Bath player Zak Feaunati as Jonah Lomu.

Whilst the film is a very solid piece of work and people will enjoy it, there are some minor criticisms. The antagonism between the black and white bodyguards felt too staged, too Hollywood. It should have been less arguments, but more bitter. There also the Hollywood cliché of the guards overcoming their dislike for each other, playing rugby and again feeling staged. They were also some other moments that are hard to believe like a black boy listening to the World Cup final with the police on their car radio. Mandala also seemed a bit too obsessed with Rugby, seeming like he didn't govern on other important issues, and also skirted over issues like Mandala health and family problems. The film was also ignoring that there are still problems with South African sports, with rugby and cricket being played mostly by white people, whilst football (or Soccer to my North American friends) is seen as the black people's sport.

This is a good, entertaining film, with two good leads who deserve their Oscars nods, but it's not Clint Eastwood at his very best.

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A Soulful Victory

Author: Chrysanthepop from Fraggle Rock
16 February 2010

Almost 80 years old, but that doesn't stop Clint Eastwood from delivering one gem after the other. This man truly loves cinema and telling stories but at the same time he also respects the reality of the source and attempts to stay true to them and the viewers. 'Invictus' tells the story of Nelson Mandela surrounding the 1995 Rugby match that was a historical victory for South Africa and a glorious 'union' for its people. While many of us know how the movie ends, it is the subtle inclusion of the strong themes, layers of the story and how the story unfolds that make 'Invictus' a very strong and poignant film. Moreover, this film is more historically accurate than a majority of Hollywood movies that claim to be 'based on a true story'. In addition, there is some great writing involved, especially in the dialogues. I also liked how Eastwood portrayed the racial tension with sheer subtlety.

Morgan Freeman is truly remarkable as Madeba. His diction may be faulty at times but he gets most of the nuances right. Matt Damon is splendid as Francois Pienaar as he gives a spirited performance. The supporting cast is strong. I particularly liked the actress who played the Pienaar's maid.

I am reluctant to categorize 'Invitus' as a 'sports' movie because it's about so much more than sports but if it is labeled under the sports section, then it is one of the best of that genre. Not only does it have soul, but 'Invictus' is very true to its history. Hats off to Eastwood and his crew, hats off to Pienaar and his team, hats off to the good people of South Africa and finally to the great Madeba.

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Moving portrayal of a great man and a great occasion...

Author: Mark Dragicevic from United Kingdom
13 February 2010

I had the honour of seeing this with a South African couple who knew all the landmarks and the sly South African in-jokes, which went completely over my head.

It was a wonderful portrayal of Mandela's humility as a man, and also of his power as President. Freeman is superb, although the accent wavers occasionally, and Damon is also strong as Francois Pienaar.

The sporting sequences are some of the most realistic ever committed to film. Some deep research must have gone into those sequences as you feel you are right on the field with the players.

The two and a quarter hours seemed to fly by, that's a sign you've watched something special.

Highly recommended.

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As thee number one Clint Eastwood fan this one was good but not epically good like some make it out to be

Author: Robert W. ( from Ontario, Canada
7 February 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Now don't get me wrong, Invictus was a great film. I enjoyed it, it entertained me, there were good performances, Freeman's Mandela is terrific and the historical aspect was decent BUT most reviewers and critics both professional and amateur alike are hailing this as some amazing piece of emotional art and it just didn't quite hit me like that. I adore Clint Eastwood, like LOVE him as a director and an actor. I've said before Eastwood is probably the only director I see because of him behind the scenes. I think this was more cut and dry than most Eastwood projects. It was simple (in a good way) without any twists or turns or really intense moments. He told a story in the simplest of terms and it works mostly because of the performances of the lead cast. Now it pains me to say this but neither the direction, the film, or the lead cast deserve Oscar nominations. I realize the film and director weren't nominated but there was a lot of expectation. Everything about was good...but only good. Even the inspirational aspect and the typical sports fever was toned down and not quite emotionally moving.

Morgan Freeman is amazing. The man is a legend and is in his prime at 73 years old!! He gives a really solid performance as the incomparable Nelson Mandela. He is definitely the best performance in the film but it isn't really his best work, its just a good performance. Matt Damon plays quiet strong Rugby team Captain Francois Pienaar. Its a good performance but not as strong as Freeman and in my opinion not deserving of an Oscar nod whatsoever. Damon has had far better roles and in fact his "subtle" performance in this movie could also be considered quite dry and kind of uneventful. However Damon and Freeman have great chemistry together. The supporting cast are all solid and do their respective roles well but no one stands out like either of the lead actors.

I feel like maybe I am harping on this movie and I don't mean to be. It is absolutely well worth seeing and I think my score of the film reflects that. I suppose I expect a lot from Eastwood plus the hype following the film doesn't help but I guess I expected tears streaming down my face and cheering but it was just more of a smile and a nod when the movie was over. I would have more liked to have seen a full life story of Mandela. The best parts of the film had nothing to do with the Rugby aspect although obviously the whole film revolved around the sport and how important it was to bringing the country together but the best parts were about Mandela as a person and what he went through. A particularly powerful scene has Damon's character standing in Mandela's cell measuring out how small it was and imagining him in the cell. Please see this film especially if you're a fan of Damon, Freeman, or Eastwood but go in with decent expectations and not the overwhelming hype that is everywhere. 8/10

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Excellent, Inspirational, Solid

Author: cl777 from Switzerland
6 February 2010

Invictus, Clint Eastwood's latest movie starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, is yet another success for the prolific 79 year old director. It is the true story of Nelson Mandela's struggle to unite South Africa after decades of apartheid, shortly after his release from prison and during his first term as President.

The mission that he sets upon himself and upon Matt Damon's character- Francois Pienaar- is unconventional to say the least. To win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Mandela realizes that this will be the only way to unify such a divided nation. Francois is the captain of the Springboks, South Africa's national rugby team. He tells him "If I got elected President, you can win the Cup." However, not only is South Africa a huge underdog, the country is racially torn and greatly divided between the blacks and the Afrikaners, or white South Africans. The rugby team being made up almost solely of whites, the blacks traditionally cheer for the opposing team.

Mandela's vision of bringing his country together through sport and national pride is both a political and human triumph. Morgan Freeman plays him brilliantly and brings in front of our eyes the man whose charm, inner strength, courage and intelligence make him a hero to so many around the world. He is an outstanding Mandela and it is true that in many scenes it is hard to differentiate the two. His physique, mannerisms, voice, accent are all a perfect match. He is a replica of Nelson Mandela and in fact when asked who could interpret him in a film the former President answered: "Morgan Freeman", quite an endorsement for the actor. Matt Damon gives a very realistic portrayal as well, having gained weight and muscle for the role, and completely altering his accent.

We see the human, real side of Mandela- or "Madiba" as he was called- a man with his own struggles and doubts, and strained family relationships. When asked about his children he replies that he has forty two million of them and one senses his enormous sense of purpose and love. There are heartwarming moments when both his frailty and determination are exposed. For instance, when having memorized the names of each member of the team, he slowly steps onto the field and shakes their hands one by one, wearing the green Springbok jersey. Or when Francois and his team visit the miniscule jail cell where he was imprisoned for 27 years of his life, with a poem as his motivation to "stand when all he wanted to do was lie down", only to come out even stronger and ready to exceed his own expectations.

Fabio, who loves soccer and I know will watch the World Cup this summer almost as obsessively as Madiba was following the performance of the Springboks, thought the rugby scenes were too long. I found them to be really interesting, well done and fun to watch even though I was not familiar with the sport.

This is a powerful, solid movie with excellent performances. Lessons of forgiveness, team work, unity and perseverance make this film very inspirational. I very much enjoyed it as I have all of Mr. Eastwood's latest. His films are always of an extremely high caliber- in acting, script, cinematography and directing. This one is no exception.

My rating: 8.5 Fabio's: 7 Total score: 15.5 For more reviews, check out

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Morgan Freeman must take all the accolades....!!!!! Magnificent Performance....

Author: maverick-vishal from India
3 February 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Clint Eastwood, the man with an aquiline look, seen in profound characters in "Million Dollar Baby" and "Gran Torino", has come out with such a subtle and fine movie that it may take many by a surprise....

Inspired from the book "Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation" by John Carlin, the movie is based on the contribution of Mr. Mandela in inspiring his team to win the Rugby World Cup 1995, in order to unite the apartheid-torn land.

Morgan Freeman once again delights us with his magnificent performance. His sheer screen presence makes us feel good, positive and really inspired throughout the movie.

Matt Damon is good as the team captain "Francois Pienaar". Genuine and humble along with alert and decisive is the character portrayal by Damon. There is a scene before the final match wherein on being asked "Thinking about tomorrow ?", he replies "No, tomorrow's taken care of, one way or another. I was thinking about how you spend 30 years in a tiny cell, and come out ready to forgive the people who put you there."

Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon both have received an Oscar Nomination for their roles in the movie, that itself speaks for them and from my point of view Mr. Freeman should get the Oscar this year

All other characters have minor but an important role. This movie in my opinion is truly inspiring. Clint Eastwood continues to inspire after gems such as Million Dollar Baby, Changeling and others...

Do watch it....!!!!

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Screenplay results in totally off target absraction

Author: coraltrees from everywhere
15 August 2014

The movie only focuses on one small part of an otherwise astounding account of a political genius and triumph against all odds that make the real South Africa/Mandela story so remarkable. The movie by association, trivializes, neglects and attempts to abstract the most important and historically relevant part of the overall story into some kind of Hollywood style under-dog sport movie a la mighty ducks. Granted there was already the "Long walk to freedom" movie that the film makers wanted to distinguish themselves from, but in the end the only analogy I can think of is they may as well have made a movie about "Gandhi" solely based on his supporting role in a regional cricket match between India and Pakistan ... years after all the really important political struggles and accomplishments that preceded it. Ask yourself this question... "Do you feel uninspired? Well do you? Punk"

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Morgan Freeman's finest performance yet

Author: Ross622 from United States
15 February 2014

This movie was a true masterpiece with Morgan Freeman perfectly portraying Nelson Mandela. Co- starring Matt Damon as the captain of South Africa's rugby team the Springboks, Under the Oscar level direction by the great Clint Eastwood. I totally didn't understand why Morgan Freeman didn't win the 2009 Oscar for Best Actor because i thought that he totally deserved it. Matt Damon gives a great performance as well,And i really liked the costume design for the movie. And i don't get why Clint Eastwood wasn't even nominated or even won the Best Director Oscar.I loved this movie and those of you who did not watch this movie yet i recommend that you should watch it but trust me it won't waste your time because of how excellent this motion picture really is.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

fantastic movie...

Author: s_arusiya from paris, France
6 December 2013

this movies is amazing and rocked me inside.. the best ting about this movie is i never felt even a single sec of distraction.. from movie..

this is really amazing casting of movie.. though the story was real.. yet it has been beautifully cast....

dialogs and inspiration speeches in the movie worked as catalysis to make it wonderful..

this movies kept me watching whole movies without took me off the screen.. in starting of movie i though movie is based on Mandela life.. but it has beautifully covered not only Mandela life but also the how he made the self contribution to his country using the Rugby game..

The Morgan freeman acting was really touching and how beautifully he took over the role of Mandela in so powerful way .. is really worth to see..

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Life is so Beautiful !!

Author: Prem Kishan (premkishan-k) from India
13 September 2013

I wont make it lengthy, just watch this movie with an open mind and more importantly heart. It is so beautiful, one feel good film.

Forget who made this movie, who acted and who reviewed it.....just watch and enjoy.

I am pretty sure you will have a smile on your face and a heart filled with joy and happiness at the end.

Hats-off for all those involved with this movie, including the audience who appreciated it !!

Now, I just cant stop myself from praising Mr.Eastwood, this is a masterpiece from him.

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