Saturday, 6 February 2010

Invictus - Review

Another year, another Clint Eastwood film boasting potentially Oscar winning gold. It was only a matter of time before there was a bio-pic made based on the life of the inspirational Nelson Mandela and let's be honest, who else was going to play him other than the institutional Morgan Freeman.

The story based on the John Carlin book, Playing The Enemy: Nelson Mandela And The Game That Changed a Nation, Invictus tells the story of the early days of Mandela's presidency where he uses the heavily criticised South African rugby team's journey in the World Cup in 1995 as a way to unite a divided nation.

Regardless of whether you love or hate sport I thought the film touched on something that is seen throughout every nation in the world. Nothing brings a country together better than a sporting event, be it , South Africa's rugby team in 1995, England's football team in 1966, Liverpool's Champions League performance in 2005 or in my own experiences, watching Northern Ireland beat England in a football World Cup qualifier in 2006. Beautiful moments, where time stops and social barriers are broken. The type that will be embedded in history, with the privileged few in the decades to come, look back and say "I was there...".

That is perhaps dressing up the whole affair, which is what Invictus was guilty of in places also. The troubled past and present social problems of South Africa being erased because of one remarkable World Cup run is being slightly naive. However it did not stop me being sucked in by the wonderful performance of Morgan Freeman as Mandela. He delivered his lines with an elegant wisdom which could bring a tear even to the most cynical person in the theatre. Matt Damon as rugby captain Fran├žois Pienaar was competent but hardly worthy to stand up to the performance of Freeman for the role he was born to play.

The production itself does live up to Eastwood's incredible high standards, however I did feel it was a missed opportunity. Though I commend Eastwood for doing a slightly unexpected take on a film based on Mandela's life, what I really would have liked to have seen was a film based on the conflict, the pain, the sacrifice Mandela faced in his life. The film only really teased at events such as his life in prison or the personal problems with his wife.

Final Thoughts
Solid and enjoyable but not quite the monumental experience I was expecting it to be. Morgan Freeman's performance is wonderful and a joy to behold on screen, but the film was completely absent of conflict, coming across more as an episodic footnote in comparison to the inspirational life mixed with pain and redemption that the real man faced. Surely there's time for Freeman to play Mandela in a beautifully told prison drama? Right?...Oh wait...


See This If You Like...
The Shawshank Redemption, Frost/Nixon

Invictus is in cinemas everywhere now.


Ronan said...

Hi Andrew,

I've been interested in seeing Invictus, your review spiked my curiosity.

Looking forward to reviewing it myself.

Wally Howe said...

It’s really interesting for me to see Hollywood tackle a movie set as far as South Africa. District 9 and Blood Diamond are two of my most favorite movies, and I really wanted Invictus to join that list. It works as an inspirational sports movie and as a biopic look into Mandela’s first term as president. I think this was a much unexpected move on Clint Eastwood’s part. And while the movie does tend to be a little chunky, I still really enjoyed it.