"Eastwood lends the same sentimental magic to Invictus"
Loosely based on John Carlin’s book ‘Playing the Enemy’, the film tells of how the South African rugby team, the Springboks, embarked on a seemingly impossible quest to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup in a hope that it will unite a divided nation. Mandela (Morgan Freeman, of course) believed that the racial tensions left over from the apartheid could be dissolved if both blacks and whites were to support the Springboks, a team whose colours, players and fans symbolised past discrimination against blacks. It’s therefore up to Springboks’ captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to turn his poorly performing side into a team of champions. In a slow moving first act, we see Nelson Mandela, an revered and hated figure rise to prominence. It eventually shifts from a slow but somewhat interesting political movie into a very conventional, entirely predictable sports film.
Freeman has been attached in some form or another to play Mandela for a while, and Mandela himself has said that he couldn't see anyone other than Freeman playing him. Freeman is astonishing and proves that he was perfectly cast. Matt Damon is fortunately versatile enough to where he can play smaller roles like these without extreme criticism, since the only real challenge was to get a South African accent. It's not a very deep or moving role, a credible go of Springbok captain Francois Pienaar however, as much as I love Matt Damon, I wasn't convinced his performance was Oscar worthy.
Like his other films Eastwood lends the same sentimental magic to Invictus as well but the film fared just average with the critics because of its overlong script and a slow-paced narrative. It is however a treat to watch Freeman's portrayal of Mandela and the soul-stirring connection he makes with the audience. At the end of the day, it’s a good but somewhat forgettable film, one that you can say might be below Eastwood’s talents. The acting is good, but it doesn't move the film to be more than generic. Invictus is an average film of an intriguing footnote in South African history.