Monday, May 17, 2010

Invictus - Clint Eastwood (2009)

“Invictus,” Clint Eastwood’s story of how newly elected South African President Nelson Mandela used his country’s rugby team as an instrument of reconciliation, has its share of flaws, but in the end it’s inspiring in its own way.

If you’re generally turned off by sports movies, you don’t need to worry. The focus of the film is Nelson Mandela’s determination to bring black and white South Africa together. The use of Rugby as the symbol for that fight is incidental.

As the film opens, we are given a brief, cliff-notes rundown of the events leading up to Mandela’s Presidency. We’re shown his release from prison, his role in staving off a civil war and his inauguration.

To the shock and anger of many who put him in office, Mandela focuses on healing his country and moving forward rather than punishing his oppressors.

This determined reconciliation includes the sport of rugby, primarily supported by the country’s white minority. With so many in the country seeing the team as the last symbol of Apartheid, there is a push to shut the team down entirely.

Mandela, however, sees this as nothing but petty vengeance. He urges lawmakers to keep the team, including its colors of green and gold: the colors of Apartheid.

As the film moves forward, Mandela’s attempts to heal his country mirror the struggles of the rugby team as it tries to make itself fit to compete in the upcoming World Cup.

In the end, Mandela, his team and his country pull through in what we now know as one of the most profound changes in a country the world has ever seen.

Mandela is one of the great heroes of the 20th century and “Invictus” does his legacy justice.
It’s imperfections are easily overlooked. Yes, “Invictus” runs at least 20 minutes longer than it should and no, Matt Damon did not deserve his Best Supporting Actor nomination.

But in the end, the movie we are left with is a fitting tribute to the change one great leader can make, not only politically, but in the hearts of his countrymen. Morgan Freeman does a fantastic job of making Nelson Mandela more than just an historical icon.

While Eastwood’s film doesn’t match up to his other dramatic efforts of the decade like “Mystic River” or “Million Dollar Baby,” but “Invictus” is well worth the rental.

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