Genre: Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 14 min.
Release Date: December 11th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Clint Eastwood Actors: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge, Patrick Mofokeng, Matt Stern, Julian Lewis Jones, Bonnie Henna
ikely the first political inspirational sports drama, “Invictus” piles on the encouraging speeches and rousing rallies to such an extent that the inspiration is practically tangible. But it’s also quite draining, with one enthusiastic hurrah after another, until there couldn’t possibly be any more motivational orations. And then the inspiring songs start. “Invictus” provides plenty of great leaders overcoming harsh adversity, American actors donning thick accents, and oh so much inspiration.
Four years after his release from prison in 1990, Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) is elected President of South Africa. He’s determined to ease the racial tensions and suppress the hatred brimming throughout his country. Seeing the potential of rugby and the Springboks, the South African national team, led by Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), Mandela encourages the nation to support the previously hated club for the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
“Invictus” is a film made by Clint Eastwood for Clint Eastwood. The normal appeal of a moving sports drama is curiously absent, replaced almost entirely by civil unrest and political calculations. Instead of praying on the easy target of the first African American player for a specific sport, “Invictus” uses Apartheid and rugby as a backdrop for a story of uniting a nation. The traditional underdog team provides little interest, and their exceeding of expectations is all too predictable. Morgan Freeman’s performance will probably get plenty of recognition for the stunningly accurate portrayal, but the surrounding dullness of the plot will likely get in the way of the film being recognized for its storytelling.
Where’s the suspense? Where’s the conflict? The film lacks any real emotional attachment to the characters, despite a few stirring speeches by Mandela. And the action of the main sport is lukewarm at best. Rugby in particular is just obscure enough that the slow-motion intensity and fast-paced scoring won’t be clear to all audiences. Most often, it’s just a lot of grunting and grimacing. It tries very hard to be poignant, especially with the simple piano based theme, reminiscent of “Unforgiven,” “Million Dollar Baby,” and “Gran Torino,” but ends up being terribly boring. Slow and lengthy, the events of the 1995 World Cup may have been seen by billions during the live broadcast, but the movie will probably be seen and appreciated by very few.
– The Massie Twins