Saturday, December 12, 2009

Movie Review: Invictus

I'll be honest, I didn't really know who Nelson Mandella was before this film came out, but when I saw Invictus, I saw the story of a man that is unlike any other in modern history.

The film, directed by Clint Eastwood, refuses to be your typical biopic, and that is where it is most charming. Rather than giving you the typical play-by-play analysis of Mandella's life, like pretty much every single biopic ever made, Eastwood simply took a small slice of Mandella's long and illustrious career, and put it to the big screen.

The film picks up right when Mandella is elected President of South Africa. The film essentially follows his first year or two in office as he rallies together with the Captain of the South African Rugby team to try and unite the country, which is split between black and white, by winning the Rugby World Cup. But how can the Rugby team win, when they're utterly horrendous? That is all one needs to know to see Invictus, and if you have any knowledge of modern history (which unfortunately mine is very limited), then you probably know what is going to happen, but it's the journey there that makes Invictus worth watching.

Eastwood and screenwriter Anthony Peckham should be applauded for giving the audience a full summation of who Mandella is and what he's like, all without doing this long and boring backstory, they just jump straight into the meat of the story and capture the audience from the very beginning. Though, this film isn't just a biopic, it's a sports film as well.

Eastwood and Peckham have managed to craft a sports film unlike any other I think I've ever seen, tossing aside all of the typical sports movie conventions. They do not overplay any of the rugby matches, they simply show them as if you were a player running on the field along with the two opposing teams, which in the end is more naturalistic, but I can't help but feel it keeps the film from reaching the emotional heights of some other sports films. Plus, it's the first film I've ever seen to feature rugby, and I just wonder, does anyone in America truly understand this sport?

With all that said, the film features terrific performances from all the stars. Matt Damon shines as the Captain of the South African Rugby team. Damon disappears into this role, and while I don't know if it has enough meat to garner him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod, he should not be forgotten. Speaking of Oscars, Morgan Freeman is the heart-and-soul of this film as Nelson Mandella. Freeman is, in my opinion, a shoe-in for Best Actor, he simply disappears into this role and he comes across as confident, wise, and charming all at the same time.

At the end of Invictus, you leave feeling satisfied and uplifted, but the only thing this movie lacked was that big emotional moment of catharsis. Perhaps I'm too sentimental to enjoy a movie that denies the audience that big, weeper moment? Even without it, Invictus shines as a beautiful piece of filmmaking, being an entertaining film that defies convention and manages to uplift the soul while doing it.

I give Invictus an 8 out of 10!

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