When Nelson “Madiba” Mandela (Morgan Freeman) became President of South Africa, part of his mission was to cultivate a collective consciousness among the populace in the wake of Apartheid. This proved to be no mean feat, for the nation had just finished a bloody civil war which left Blacks and whites very suspicious of each other.
Although Mandela himself had endured extreme hardships at the hands of the Apartheid regime, including 27 years of brutal incarceration as a political prisoner, he was determined to govern impartially, seeking to balance Black aspirations against white fears. Then, in 1995, with the country set to host the Rugby World Cup Championship, he seized on the idea of using the event to unite the people by encouraging everyone to rally around the Springboks, the South Africa national team. So, ignoring the skepticism of his closest advisors, Mandela announced that, “Reconciliation starts here!”
This is the point of departure of Invictus, a combination sports saga and historical drama directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie takes its title from William Ernest Henley’s classic poem of the same name containing the immortal lines: “In the fell clutch of circumstance… I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” The film co-stars Morgan Freeman who earned another Oscar nomination for his uncanny impersonation of Mandela opposite Matt Damon who landed one of his own for perfecting an Afrikaner accent in portraying Francois Pienaar, the captain of the Springboks.
A critical component of Mandela’s plan involved inspiring Pienaar and his teammates to embrace the motto “One team, one country!” Still, a slogan alone would not be enough, which meant Mandela also needed the Springboks to rise to the occasion and prevail in the tournament, if his novel notion were to take hold and sweep across the land. This is why he brought them on an outing to the infamous Robben Island, sharing those memorable lines from Invictus which had sustained him during his incarceration in a dank prison cell there.
The movie works better when recounting such poignant, personal interludes which reveal Mandela’s complicated psyche than during the scenes recreating rugby matches staged in Ellis Park Stadium. Unfortunately, Invictus focuses far more on the latter than the former, thereby subtly attributing South Africa’s critical turn towards racial reconciliation to a fairly-formulaic, sports triumph than to the sage insights of a visionary leader who saw forgiveness as the only path to a lasting peace.
“The rainbow nation starts here!”
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for PG-13 for brief profanity.
Running time: 133 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack Extras: Invictus music trailer, plus four featurettes: “Matt Damon Plays Rugby,” “Vision, Courage and Honor,” “Mandela Meets Morgan” and “The Eastwood Factor.”
To order a copy of Invictus on DVD, visit: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002JCSWVG?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B002JCSWVG
To see a trailer for Invictus, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54HlG54IY6E