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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.7%
Worth A Look58.7%
Average: 28.26%
Pretty Bad: 2.17%
Total Crap: 2.17%

6 reviews, 10 user ratings

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by William Goss

"Everybody's Fine"
3 stars

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years behind bars for acting out against apartheid, and four years after his release, he was elected president of South Africa with the intent of reconciling the rift between the country’s black populace and its white minority. His secret weapon? Rugby.

With Invictus, director Clint Eastwood looks to combine a timely political drama with a timeless underdog sports story. Goodness knows the Hollywood vet can turn out a new movie like nobody’s business and do so with relative directorial grace, and goodness knows that his consistent co-star, Morgan Freeman, has the God-given gravitas and all-around look to pull off the role of Mandela.

But Anthony Peckham’s screenplay, taken from John Carlin’s novel “Playing the Enemy,” has the great leader speaking strictly in speeches and nuggets of wisdom, and although one of his security guards assure another that he’s “not a saint, but a man with a man’s problems,” nearly every scene insists that he is just that. He may be estranged from family, as we see in just one scene, and he works himself to the point of exhaustion, as we see in, again, a single scene, but beyond that, Mandela is the man. He’s the guy that can turn around a sad-sack rugby team by simply coaching the coach (Matt Damon, nailing the accent as best I can tell) into winning games instead of losing them. And slowly (134 minutes slowly), but surely (because then there wouldn’t be a movie), things turn around for the Springboks and likewise for South Africa.

The problem isn’t that Invictus is idealistic, but that it’s dramatically shallow. Will that kid who initially refused a free team jersey for fear of embarrassment come around to cheer them on? Will the skeptical sportscaster and former Springbok player change his tune? Will the black members of Mandela’s security team get along with their new white colleagues? Will Damon’s racist father give their black maid the time of day? Eastwood’s approach is old-fashioned and feel-good to a fault, with every supporting character existing strictly to convey that Mandela’s strategizing was singularly responsible for eradicating all of South Africa’s racial troubles, and much of the film is simply waiting for the pieces to fall into place, for the opposites to hug, with little drama or humor to pass the time in between (but plenty of gaudy grabs at Best Original Song).

And once we get to the Big Match, we’ve been given only the briefest primer on how rugby is actually played, and while these sequences are shot clearly and energetically by cinematographer Tom Stern, they’re compelling in the strictest sense that we know the Springboks must win (because, again, why bother making a movie if they didn’t?). As if to underline the inevitability of it all, Eastwood lets loose with an unfortunate amount of slow-motion both on and off the field, desperate to milk the unity for all its worth.

The inspiration factor’s there for any audience that wants it, albeit in its barest form. By the end of 'Invictus', you might even want to give the rugby ball its own Nobel Peace Prize, which would be fine with President Mandela. He just wants an Oscar nod.

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originally posted: 12/12/09 05:55:46
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User Comments

1/18/11 millersxing Better as a human interest film than as pure sports nostalgia; the underdog story compels! 5 stars
10/25/10 mr.mike "Is no bad". Freeman and Damon excel. 4 stars
3/17/10 Bob Dog sadly underrated 5 stars
3/07/10 HamIAm It is about Mandela, and his wisdom in the face of an impossible situation. 5 stars
2/13/10 MP Bartley Eastwood has the knack of making any cliche seem honest and heartfelt. 4 stars
1/01/10 Phineas "St" Mandela is a Racist that's taken SA to the sewer. Blacks Can't Run anything Right. 1 stars
12/25/09 Suzz possibly the worst sports-themed film I've ever seen. Poorly directed and performed. 2 stars
12/18/09 Debbie Brooks Hey, Nit picky reviewers- Feel-good is OK! 5 stars
12/13/09 Flounder The script is pro forma (in a bad way) but it benefits from solid performances. 3 stars
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  11-Dec-2009 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-May-2010


  DVD: 18-May-2010

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