Invictus: The Review

It has history.

It is a sports film.

It has Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman.

And no, this is not like The Mighty Ducks but with Barack Obama cheering them on.

Before Nelson Mandela was beloved, he was hated by the whites of South Africa. Because of his political will, he was locked up for almost three decades. When he was released, the whites detested it. When he was elected President of the Republic of South Africa, these whites fear for their lives. Mandela thinks otherwise though. What better way to make these whites become his allies?

Probably… rugby.

What I loved:

Like I said, this is a historical sports film. I am a huge fan of sports flicks. From Jerry Maguire, to the Mighty Ducks, to Remembering the Titans, to Any Given Sunday, to Mystery Alaska, to Shaolin Soccer, to Goal, to Happy Gilmore, to Major League, to Space Jam and even the Keanu Reeves-flick The Replacements! The film had those slomo moments, those sharp blood-oozing goodness, you see the reaction from the faces when they feel pain and anguish and you root for these guys that you forget that the outcome has been revealed… but you still root for them to find out how the events unfolded for them to seal the win.

Morgan Freeman is an acting demigod. Nobody does it better than this guy. Except for Sidney Poitier none of the current flock of actors can pull of what he did to play Mandela. Freeman has elegance and the glossiness to withstand this. I also commend Matt Damon for this. He has come a long way from playing those Kevin Smith flicks and I amazed how he looked like an actual rugby player in this film. His body is different here – sure Jason Bourne is the ultimate anti-terrorist weapon but playing a South African strongman who concentrates in beefing up his upper body and back is a look rarely seen from Damon. Gerald Butler can pull this off but he is not that charismatic. Same goes for Daniel Craig. Jude Law? Hmmm…

Anywho, Damon looks like a real rugby player so I’m sticking with the Clint pick.

His people needed a leader… and he gave them a champion. Whoa, copywriters everywhere will have to find some way to alter and use this phrase for their commercials! Whenever Clint Eastwood directs, there is something about his film being both epic and mature. Kids can handle Invictus because it is like reading a cool professor’s lesson plan… with the audio/visual spots and the Q and A’s. I like how we saw Mandela’s good side and his flaws. His failed attempts to reconnect with his family was seen here which is a different side to see from the overworked and much admired leader of free SAF.

The build up from the divided nation to the united country was great. The good thing about this was the end wasn’t really disclosed. Mandela’s recovery wasn’t mentioned as were the black and white wars, their economic surge, Mandela’s family life, aftermath of the rugby team, and others (Matt Damon’s character was kicked out from the rugby team a year later because the coach accused Francois for feign an injury).

For that one moment, all problems came to a standstill and the South Africans enjoyed the day the Springboks united a divided nation.

What I DIDN’T REALLY hated:

Historical inaccuracies could make you cringe at Invictus. Some of the scenes were altered to either add more drama, or to give further character depth to the story. For those that experienced the actual finals match, they’ll probably hate this. I’ll bet those who experienced how history unfolded would also be pissed by this, anywho, Clint had to alter things to make the events work. Besides, the people outside South Africa don’t really see the difference in this.

What I hated though is how Mandela looked like a very, VERY geeky and nerdy Springboks fanboy. I mean, even in the diplomatic meetings??? While it did develop Mandela’s character in the flick as an avid supporter, giving gifts, trips, and all the attention is what a dirty old man does. Yes I know, Nelson could have done this, but I just hate the point that he is capable to stop a meeting to see a couple of rugby players to drills with the kids. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the flick but I just thought some that do not know the trials Nelson Mandela has been might think of him as a president that had to rely on other people to get recognition.

Come to think of it, I’ll nudge on the fact that aside from Mandela, Francois Pienaar, the Pienaar household help, the four main guards, and the kid that looks like picking trash but was really trying to listen to the finals match, there weren’t any key characters to pass as “endearing”. I mean, the rugby players are mean and uncharismatic but you need to cheer for them to win. Aside from the pessimistic guy and the token black guy, the whole team was forgettable. How can a rugby themed-flick center on rugby team whose only known variable is Matt Damon? The flick would have been better if they protected their characters well.

The verdict: I have lengthy things to say about the flick but they are more of frustrations than angst over the Eastwood directed story. I want Matt Damon to win the Best Supporting Award trophy but I can’t see Morgan Freeman winning a Best Actor plum for this flick. Eastwood wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture and Best Director so the fact that the true-to-life flick wasn’t really true to life might have something to do with this.

This film is awesome if you stop being smart in current events.

Game over.


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