One of the intriguing stories of the second half of the 20th Century surrounded South Africa. The growing opposition to the apartheid system and its deconstruction was summed up in the plight of one man – Nelson Mandela. His exploits once he went from prisoner to President is the heartbeat of this Clint Eastwood movie.
The story revolves around Mandela’s efforts to begin uniting and reconciling the racially divided country through the power of sport, namely the Rugby World Cup of 1995. It is a typical feel-good story in highlighting the issue and the obstacles and seeing how little things and big sentiments make progress to overcome those obstacles. For those looking for stories of hope and change, seeing victory over ignorance and cynicism, this is a good movie to watch.
The film stars Matt Damon as the SA rugby captain Francois Pienaar, he does a passable job, but he is very much a supporting character to the story. This film is more centred on the role of Mandela himself. There is a line in the film where a black bodyguard berates a white bodyguard concerning Mandela and says that the President is not a saint he is just a man. That may be so, but the portrayal of Mandela is almost worthy of being a saint. Whatever flaws there maybe to the man are overwhelmed by the portrayal of a man willing to go out on his convictions even if it puts him at odds with his own people and to whom almost all who come into his company are mesmerised by him. Morgan Freeman, the ever endurable and reliable actor, takes on the lead role and does not try to ape Mandela but does a fairly good job in depicting this most remarkable of gentlemen. Although it may not be his greatest role, despite being arguably the greatest character he’ll ever play, Freeman still does enough to convince the audience of those saintly qualities of Mandela.
As a feel good film with a message of unity and overcoming hostilities through the power of the human will to bond together for shared causes it can at times come across a bit mawkish. Some of the characters seem to two dimensional – like Pienaar’s dad. Some of the set-ups are also simplistic for the purpose of getting across the message of the piece. That’s where the film is somewhat lacking, which is unusual for an Eastwood to be lacking in substance. The only character given an opportunity to be of some greater substance is the lead character who is almost deified. The story of hope – with the deal of leaving people feeling optimistic about human progress also seems too shallow.
A quality of film worth watching, though, is its ability to leave you with genuine talking points that are not critical of the film itself, and Invictus in highlighting the real issues that people around the world face, serves this purpose well. It is a worthy effort to take a snapshot in the life of the extraordinary figure of the 20th Century and in leaving elements of the man or the myth of the man for the good of all humanity it is worth considering.