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Newly elected President Nelson Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of apartheid. Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa's rugby team as they make their historic run to the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship match.

December 11, 2009

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Morgan Freeman outstanding as Nelson Mandella

Reviewed by mutuel

At The Movies

Invictus (PG) * * * *

Director: Clint Eastwood

Stars: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon

Genre: Drama

Audience Suitability: PG

Rating: * * * * *

Studio: Warner Brothers

Release Date: Dec. 11, 2009

Running Time: 134 MInutes

Play Ball!


Associate the names Eastwood, Freeman and Damon with any film project and odds are good you’ll get a superior effort. Rewards will be had by all audiences who check out Invictus, a stunning cinematic treat from this talented trio and Warner Brothers Films. Sure to create lots of Oscar buzz this captivating 134 minute story is now unfolding at Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking), the Fifth Avenue Cinemas, Empire Esplanade Six, Empire Studio 12, Colossus and Famous Players Silver City Theatres around B.C.

Come December the studios and talented filmmakers unleash their finest products. Done away with summer heroics and throwaway spring flings and autumn wannabes the best is truly saved for last. Just like the original James Bond films were released in December now it appears no year can end without a Clint Eastwood masterpiece. Invictus continues this winning tradition for the original man with no name and squint eyed detective from the city by the bay.

Turning Points in History are Few and Far Between

Over the years discrimination has taken many forms. History tells us to remember the past or risk reliving dark times. South Africa has been a tragedy in the making for generations. National racism was practiced on the home grown population until the election of Nelson Mandela, played brilliantly by Morgan Freeman, changed course and the fortunes of an oppressed minority. Fear of the unknown is common for those minorities in power afraid of giving up control. Invictus tells us the story of how a former prisoner could rise to the top of power in a country full of ancient hatreds that are still slowly being purged.

Scant time is spent on Mandela’s early years in custody. Instead we see him emerge as a new leader and the tough attitudes he had to take on. Unsure of the transition the story smartly shows the testiness of the key players in government. What few could have expected, however, was the role sport was to play in one man’s quest for a better country – and world.

While most leaders would be more interested in running a government and hobnobbing with international heads of state Mandela saw the need to unite a people and through, of all things, a rugby team, that effort was made sincere. Closet quarterbacks are a dime a dozen but against this brand new government one fearless leader made an effort to use an otherwise, also ran rugby squad and subtly in effect make them the cornerstone of national reconciliation.

Respect for all human rights was the mantra of Mandela and with the aid of some jocks he was able to forge ahead and, in the process, rally a people. Captain of the team Francois Pienaar, portrayed by an accented Matt Damon, was at first skeptical of this mission as were his crew but over time the team took the effort seriously.

Clint Eastwood again recreates to perfection the South Africa of the 90s. Tension abounds in this movie as there are forces within both the white and black communities that want Nelson Mandela’s newly formed government to fall. Stand-out acting from the main performers is always expected but even the secondary and tertiary figures here rise to the occasion and flesh out a believable scenario of what best could be described as a modern miracle.

Magnetic Morgan Freeman Captures Mandela’s Convictions

Full of passion and vigour and total charm is Morgan Freeman (Kiss the Girls) who radiates on screen as the soft-spoken Mandela. Speeches given by Mandela soft spoken rugby star, also points to the need for acceptance and a willingness to, in the words of John Lennon, Give Peace a Chance. On the rugby field, however, peace is the last things on anyone’s mind as a squad not too many gave a snowball’s chance in hell of winning clearly put in a yeoman’s effort.

Sports movies require action on the athletic field but superior films in this genre require character growth and deeper developments. Invictus does a masterful job showing how sport can lift a nation from the depths to new heights. Action on the field is intense with the camera work impressive. Unfortunately, the final match, though gripping, does tend to linger too long and drag.

Fans of history and change should fully embrace Invictus, a wonderful testament to the life of Nelson Mandela that reveals his philosophy without turning him into just another leader out for power. Deep insight into Mandela’s character and humanity is brilliantly revealed by Freeman who likely will at the very least get an Oscar nomination for best actor.

Another Eastwood trait is music. Soft tone lyrics further enhance the atmosphere of this terrific journey. Not just a wonderful movie, but a superior teaching tool without any preaching makes Invictus a superb portrayal of a one of a kind man.

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