Movie Review : Invictus  

Posted by CK in ,

I just finished watching Invictus and I have to say that it was brilliant. Yet another Clint Eastwood classic. It's a sport film about a team that actually made a difference to the lives of millions of people and a divided nation that desperately needed a symbol of unity after centuries of hatred fueled by apartheid. 

The movie is set in post-apartheid South Africa when Nelson Mandela has just taken over as the President of the bitterly divided nation. After 27 years in prison, he struggles tirelessly to unite a nation that is split bitterly along the lines of race. The blacks hate everything that is white and that stands for apartheid and race distinction. The whites, on the other hand, are fearful and distrustful of everything that the new black leadership represents. 

In his attempt to unite the country under a single cause, Mandela turns to François Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby team, The Springboks. The movie is based on the book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation. 

There are several scenes in the movie that are thought provoking. One of the first scenes of the Black-White discord is when the newly founded presidential bodyguard consists of Black ANC activists and White Afrikaner Corps policemen. They share the responsibility of keeping one of the world's foremost statesmen alive while getting over their long-held prejudices for each other. There is also a rugby match between the Springboks and England which has all white South Africans cheering for the Boks and all the black South Africans cheering for the opposition. In their view, the Boks stand for white supremacy (considering the team had only one black player, Chester Williams.) 

Mandela, in his reconciliation program and amidst rebuilding a nation, decides that this team and the upcoming 1995 Rugby World Cup would be the source of inspiration that the newly formed Republic needs. He asks the young South African captain to provide this inspiration in the form of a victory in the World Cup. There is nothing better to heal a nation's scars than the common element of sport. It must be said that when this request was made, the Boks were seeded 9th and were the clear underdogs with nary a victory to their name. 

Whilst this movie is a stirring tale of a nation coming together, it is also a sports movie. And what does every sports movie have? An underdog team rising against all odds to beat the champions. And the challenge is herculean to the young François Pienaar. He recognizes that the World Cup actually represents salvation for the racially volatile nation and that the team were the bringers of this redemption. To top off this mammoth expectation, the Boks are asked to conduct rugby training camps in the poorer areas of the nation for young black children. 

One very powerful scene was when Mandela tells François about this poem that he used to read when he was a prisoner on Robben Island. This was something that gave him strength when he felt like he was spent. The poem is called Invictus. 

It is this poem that François reads on a visit to Mandela's cell and realizes that here was a man who spent 27 years in prison and then came out willing to forgive and forget for the betterment of his country. 

The Boks go ahead to beat all the odds and face off with the most successful rugby team in the world, the New Zealand All Blacks in the 1995 World Cup final. 

Well, watch the movie. Watch it and be blown away by a larger than life performance by Morgan Freeman and a very real performance by Matt Damon. 

Damn, I love Clint Eastwood. I hope he keeps making movies till he has to go to that great Studio in the Sky. 

This entry was posted on Monday, March 1, 2010 at Monday, March 01, 2010 and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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