Invictus

 Invictus | Drama | PG-13 (L) | starring Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon | directed by Clint Eastwood | 2:14 mins.

After being released from prison and elected the president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) comes up with a plan to pull together the racially divided country by rallying them around the rugby team, the Springbok’s, and hoping that captain Piennar (Matt Damon) can take them all the way to the World Cup.

Director Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon team up to bring us a bit of late-year Oscar bait with Invictus. The premise of the film is meaty, an event-specific biography of Nelson Mandela leading over racially torn South Africa told through a sports movie. Each story, having been told before, but together, bouncing off each other become something new and dramatically different.

But Invictus is cold to the touch. A surprisingly shallow and workmanlike effort from Eastwood who, up to his last movie (the great, underrated The Changeling) has given us movies that probe the emotional fragility of the situation and characters trapped in it. Eastwood approaches this one like a highlight reel. Relying that the true nature of the events themselves will carry all the drama and inspiration.  

Freeman is expectedly good as Mandela. But the script gives him almost nothing to work making his efforts amount to little more than an impression of the man. It’s like saying that Tina Fey is giving a great Sarah Palin performance just because, with a few minor hair changes, they have a natural predosposition to look alike. We are given almost no insight into Mandela and soon he takes to the sideline for the Rugby story. And the Rugby story is where the movie really falls flat. Damon barely registers and Eastwood shows that he can shoot sports action but not stage it for any thrilling effect.

Dissapointingly neither of these stories come together in a satisfying way. We don’t get a feel of how racially torn Africa is or that – apart from a climactic singing of the national anthem – it’s reconciliation can hinge on the Rugby game. The movie is more concerned with procedural political calculations of it all, which is fine for a procedural, but makes it a shallow film from 3 talents I’ve come to expect better from.

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