Invictus (12A)

Film

Drama

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Feb 2 2010

He turns 80 this year and claims ‘Gran Torino’ was his last outing as an actor. But, as a director, Clint Eastwood is keeping his nose to the grindstone. He spent the end of 2009 filming a Peter Morgan-penned thriller, ‘Hereafter’, in Europe and the US, and earlier last year decamped to South Africa to film this respectful, rousing drama about Nelson Mandela’s canny co-opting of the 1995 Rubgy World Cup Finals as a tool to promote racial harmony across the social and political tinderbox that was the new, post-apartheid state.

Eastwood isn’t a director to indulge in shades of grey and so the film’s first scenes of the historic, televised release of Mandela (Morgan Freeman) from prison in 1990 are preceded by a shot of white boys playing rugby on one side of the road while their black equivalents kick a football on the other. Simple imagery: a background of division established – job done.

A similar, no-nonsense efficiency colours the whole film, which jumps forward to Mandela’s inauguration in 1994, again mixing reconstruction and news footage, before ditching this early documentary feel to settle into a behind-the-scenes walk-through of the early months of his presidency. This was a time when existing presidential staff wrongly expected to be booted out of their jobs; a black civil-rights group believed, also wrongly, that Mandela would support their desire to change the name and colours of the national rugby team; and somewhere in a white suburb the captain of that same team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) and his family were shaking their heads at the assumption that their country was heading to the dogs.

Eastwood and writer Anthony Peckham further stress South Africa’s lingering disharmony through a chorus of Mandela’s bodyguards, for which existing, white heavies are  joined by new, black counterparts. Between them, they trade insults and glares like boxers before a fight. Again, it’s a simple tool, useful enough but marred by some substandard local actors. All praise to Eastwood for casting on the ground; less praise to him for allowing them to disrupt his movie with their awkward presence.

From here, it’s valuable life lessons all round as Mandela invites Pienaar to tea, joins the rugby team in training and – famously – strides on to the pitch at the South Africa v New Zealand final wearing the same Springboks shirt that a year earlier was a divisive symbol of the old nation. Security tensions at this match offer Eastwood an unnecessary sideshow as he tries and fails to insert a thriller element into the film by hinting at a bomb attack or assassination attempt – real fears at the time, but out of place here. A shot of an aircraft flying above the stadium plays on post-9/11 fears – but would anyone in 1995 have suspected a low-flying passenger plane of terrorism?

Both leads are effective, and Damon is very good at displaying Pienaar’s conservatism cracking in the glare of Mandela’s wise optimism. Freeman is perhaps too stately, but it’s a thankless task trying to pull off an impersonation of such a public figure. He’s more at ease in intimate scenes, although on a technical level, his accent raises the odd eyebrow.

‘Invictus’ isn’t one of Eastwood’s best films, especially judged against the late flowering of his career since 2003’s ‘Mystic River’. But it’s still a noble and compassionate work that in its later scenes manages successfully to invest our emotions in the triumph of an important – if overlong! – sporting victory. 
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Release details

Rated:

12A

UK release:

Fri Feb 5, 2010

Duration:

133 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Clint Eastwood

Cast:

Tony Kgoroge, Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Patrick Mofokeng

Screenwriter:

Anthony Peckham

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.2 / 5

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  • 2 star:3
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LiveReviews|16
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usman khawaja

morgan freeman -the music and the mandela aura with the anecdotes about afternoon english tea and yet so poignant too -with reality and humor interwined in an invincible triumph by eastwood -irresistible

Denise Gillot

My husband and I really enjoyed this film, so much so we have now purchased the book "Playing the Enemy". The acting from all of the cast was very good and convincing. My husband is from South Africa and Nelson Mandela has always been an idol of his. The man is so remarkable and the film captured how remarkable he is to be so forgiving after 27 years on Robin Island. We thoroughly recommend anyone to see this film.

bernardbolton

Take your hanky. It's a tear jerker from start to finish. One might think that a nice end result of this film will be that the racists in our midst will change their ways. - They won't. Would be a nice touch if BWFC didn't get relegated this year.

Harry

A terrific, absorbing, feelgood film about the strategy employed by Madiba to unite the South African people. I was in SA when the match took place & I thought this was remarkably accurate - accurate emotionally & in terms of the physical detail. I never realised just how involved Madiba was & I had completely forgotten about the moment when this huge jumbo jet overflew the stadium with a message of support written on its underside! It's a marvellous film & really understated with it. Morgan Freeman is just amazing. He absolutely captures the character of Madiba. Highly recommended.

Harry

A terrific, absorbing, feelgood film about the strategy employed by Madiba to unite the South African people. I was in SA when the match took place & I thought this was remarkably accurate - accurate emotionally & in terms of the physical detail. I never realised just how involved Madiba was & I had completely forgotten about the moment when this huge jumbo jet overflew the stadium with a message of support written on its underside! It's a marvellous film & really understated with it. Morgan Freeman is just amazing. He absolutely captures the character of Madiba. Highly recommended.

philmk

Entertaining and uplifting story, and I'm quite convinced now that anybody who wants to run a country should be locked up in a small cell for thirty years first.

IWN

"Elephant", are you sure you understand the definition of cynic? I saw the film and thought the subject matter poorly handled. It was a little dull. I'm not sure I'd call it a "feel good" movie. That rugby match was far from the end of South Africa's struggles. Also, the film implies everyone lived happily ever after.

Elephant

Put your cynicism to one side. Nelson Mandela is a visionary; a great human being. Spend two hours realisinging that this film just scratches the surface of his achievement. Clint Eastwood did a good job in encapsulating a massive subject around an iconic rugby competition. For me it was a feel good experience.

Elephant

Put your cynicism to one side. Nelson Mandela is a visionary; a great human being. Spend two hours realisinging that this film just scratches the surface of his achievement. Clint Eastwood did a good job in encapsulating a massive subject around an iconic rugby competition. For me it was a feel good experience.

trickydicky

I was disappointed with this film. With both Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon heading the cast, the historical material, the setting, and that Mandella was the primary focus of the film, I’m surprised CE couldn’t have done much better. I expected much better. When you think of the quality of African photography in films like "The Constant Gardener", you realise just how heavy handed Clint Eastwood can be as a director. Like "Grand Torino", I found this film a little clichéd - almost as though Clint doesn’t trust his audience to be smart enough to pick up on more subtle clues. The white and black boys playing in separate fields at the start of the film was all too obvious. The script was equally leaden, and the characterisation poor - I couldn’t have cared less about any of the characters portrayed in the film. Some of the actors were poorly chosen. At the point the Pienaar family was questionning whom the fourth ticket to the rugby match was for, I nearly threw up in the bag of popcorn of the woman sat next to me. Of course it was for the maid … and of course it was to show how much South Africa had changed … but it was so unsubtle … there were a million other ways to have shown the change in attitudes, interests, culture, and so on. With such a heavy script, it’s hard to see how Freeman or Damon will win an Oscars for their roles - personally I don’t think this film has done either of their careers any favours. Time Out is being generous awarding 3 stars … I’d say 2 stars.

Paul

Whilst the real fans were downstairs watching live Six Nations rugby in 3D the rest of us were upstairs watching the fantasy. I had forgotten just how unpleasant the Afrikaans were and the old Spitting Image song "I've never met a nice South African", guess a lot of them live in London now after the chicken run. The film got applause at the end, a formulaic sports film, so no surprises. The highlight of the film is seeing Mandela's cell and prison, a moving moment that got a lot of us demonstrating outside the SA embassy in Trafalgar Square all those years ago. No idea why they put Damon into a lead role, let's face it he can't act, just looks cute.

John Ayton

Another “man with a mission� film from Clint Eastwood, but without the usual violent outcome. In fact this is about a famous man with a difficult objective: can the newly elected president of South Africa - torn apart by apartheid - unite the country through a single belief that their inadequate national Rugby Union squad can rise to the challenge of winning the World Cup as the host nation? The two guarantees that this can be achieved are firstly historical accuracy and secondly the presence of Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela. Both individuals have the advantage of being universally popular, but there’s a contradiction in that the very distinctive vocal characteristics and looks of Freeman and Mandela respectively, sometimes leads to a strange metamorphosis. Eastwood has two strong commercial draws in casting Freeman who does all the talking and Matt Damon who, as the South African team captain Francois Pienaar, does all the running around. It’s odd to see Damon just doing a cameo role. The well established themes of race and change of powerbase are reflected in many scenes connecting Mandela, his security team and family but with little intensity or dramatic structure. The idea that Mandela is exploiting sportsmen for political ends is not really debated or contended. In the end, the mending and melding of interracial feeling is demonstrated with the Rugby team’s ultimate victory, but we all know this is an aberration, so why sentimentalise the event as having a happy ending. We understand that Mandela’s strength in prison had come from reading William Earnest Henley’s poem “Invictus� but little was made of its significance except as the inspirational currency offered by the president to his Rugby captain. Mandela is heard quoting the last lines from the poem: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul�, but Francois Pienaar’s thoughts in contrast were somewhat muted, except on the playing field. The dialogue is usually satisfying, although Mandela seems to speak in aphorisms for the most part. This is essentially a feel-good sort of docudrama celebrating Mandela and achieving its objectives without too much dramatic invention. If you like sport-based films, it’s an enjoyable watch which pays reasonable attention to the sporting detail.

Colin

The successes of this film are clear, important and make it well worth seeing. These are the reverent impersonation of Nelson Mandela by Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon's excellence and the truthful depection of how a man, Mandela, saved a nation from post-apartheid implosion. Freeman gives the performance of a lifetime, his Mandela feels like the real thing yet it is clear it is Morgan. Matt Damon gives a highly believable performance of the decent but woefully ignorant white South African. The South Africa of 1995 is riven by the poverty of the ordinary black citizen, the stupidity of the defeated racists and the understandable yet disasterous thirst for revenge by ANC activists. Mandela uses the Rugby World Cup to bring a nation together as one for the very first time. An act of leadership of a genius magnitude. It is the rugby that is the weaknesses of the film. Basically there is too much of it. There needs to be some, Eastwood is right to use it as a vehicle for nation building but, frankly it is boring and the point is made with repetitive point made frequency. So much was achieved during this period in South African history that could have been explored on the theme of nation building, for example the extraordinary Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Perhaps this is for one of the many other Mandela films that are sure to be produced in years to come but the obsession with rugby in Invictus detracts from what would otherwise be a great film.

Thomas Noctor

This is the first Oscar Nominated film I've seen since The Dark Knight thats actually an excellent! After boring films like Juno, No Country For Old Men and so on, here comes a movie that deserves it. Morgan Freeman steals the show as Nelson Mandella, recently released from prison and ready to forgive the people who put him there to make South Africa a United Country, but it wont be easy! The Blacks hate Rugby and always cheer on the opposition of their own country! Matt Damon, also excellent, plays The Spring Bocks (South Africa's National Rugby Team) Captain. After a bad run losing to mediocre opposition such as England, Mandella decides he will bring the Nation together in what seems an impossible task... Winning the Rugby World Cup, which will be staged in South Africa. 1995. This is a great true story 5 out of 5 from me!

Thomas Noctor

This is the first Oscar Nominated film I've seen since The Dark Knight thats actually an excellent! After boring films like Juno, No Country For Old Men and so on, here comes a movie that deserves it. Morgan Freeman steals the show as Nelson Mandella, recently released from prison and ready to forgive the people who put him there to make South Africa a United Country, but it wont be easy! The Blacks hate Rugby and always cheer on the opposition of their own country! Matt Damon, also excellent, plays The Spring Bocks (South Africa's National Rugby Team) Captain. After a bad run losing to mediocre opposition such as England, Mandella decides he will bring the Nation together in what seems an impossible task... Winning the Rugby World Cup, which will be staged in South Africa. 1995. This is a great true story 5 out of 5 from me!