Sunday, February 28, 2010

INVICTUS - Eastwood'S Mandela Drama

INVICTUS (sports & political drama)
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Scott Eastwood, Robert Hobbs, Langley Kirkwood, Bonnie Henna and Grant Roberts
Director: Clint Eastwood
Screenplay: Anthony Peckham from the book 'Playing the Enemy' by John Carlin
Time: 131 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Freeman (as Mandela) and Damon as team captain Francois Pienaar

PREAMBLE: 'Invictus' is Latin for 'unconquered' and the movie deals with President Nelson Mandela and South Africa's Springbok rugby team. Yes, it is as much about the historical World Cup rugby match as it is about Mandela's struggles to unify the people and heal the wounds of the nation.

Clint Eastwood's film, adapted from John Carlin's book by Anthony Peckham, is not as close to American taste as The Blind Side but it is still an underdog story that bears retelling. It is nominated for two Oscar awards (Morgan Freeman for Best Actor, and Matt Damon for Best Supporting Actor) but I don't expect any win.

THE SKINNY: It is South Africa in 1994 and newly-elected President Mandela (Freeman) faces the tough job of unifying the nation, especially its problems created by decades of apartheid. One of his methods is supporting the mostly-white Springboks rugby team to win the 1995 World Cup being hosted in South Africa. Led by Francois Pienaar (Damon), the team has to compete against the world's best. The players learn not only tolerance but how to become heroes and role models for both white and black South Africans.

THE REVIEW: Unlike his World War II films, Flags Of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima, Eastwood seems less adventurous and inventive with his material. He steers the narrative along closely to that of the book and takes no side trips in offering human angle subplots. However, he seems to have enough on his hands with some amusing insights into Mandela's mixed-race bodyguard unit (which provided a few laughs and solid performances too).

Freeman had reportedly been preparing for years to play Mandela and it is easy to see the 'Madiba' (honorary title of Mandela) in him. However, the script does not offer the broad range to showcase his talents - at least not enough for Oscar votes. Ditto that for Damon's role. And of course, Eastwood does a fantastic job boiling up tension during the climatic match between the Springboks and New Zealand's All Blacks.

THE LOWDOWN: Worth the watch.


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