Rated PG-13; Directed by Clint Eastwood; Starring Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge, Adjoah Andoh, Julian Lewis Jones
Inspirational sports movies are a regular item at the movies. Yet how many of them are directed by Clint Eastwood and give us Nelson Mandela as the main character? Invictus can make that claim. Director Clint Eastwood takes a true story and makes an interesting and entertaining film about the South African rugby team winning the World Cup.
It seems every year Clint Eastwood directs a movie that offers a decent plot and good performances. “Invictus” is another one. The story recounts the early days of Nelson Mandela’s presidency, as he searches for a way to bring South Africans together. One way to overcome the old hatreds between blacks and whites is through sports. In this case it is the rugby team hoping to do well in the World Cup. Underdogs, not expected to do well, Mandela (Morgan Freeman) hopes that the “Springboks” will help him achieve his goals. Captain of the team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) also wants his team to exceed expectations.
The movie starts out slowly, but gives us fascinating background on South African politics. Mandela’s attempts to show tolerance is admirable, but not always welcome. The plot gives us the usual elements: teammates who don’t agree with their captain, an overpowering team they have to play to win, and happy children cheering their team on. Of course, most sports films don’t have a plot with a security detail worrying about protecting the president.
The movie sometimes feels a little too soggy, in attempts for gravitas. Yet the rugby sequences are fun to watch. After gaining weight for The Informant! Matt Damon has bulked up in a much more muscular way to play Pienaar. His performance as the inspired player who respects Mandela’s efforts, is strong. He gives us the emotional scenes of frustration, anger, and awe. Morgan Freeman as Mandela seems perfectly cast. He makes Mandela a fascinating character, but that may be due to Mandela himself and not just Freeman’s performance.
Invictus is inspiring, as many sports films try to be. It may not achieve excellence, but it tries for more than many other movies. Clint Eastwood has directed another good film that deserves an audience.