Sunday, January 3, 2010

Invictus--wait for the DVD release

This review is solely by Amy.

How can you go wrong with Clint Eastwood directing, Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela & Matt Damon as a hunky rugby player?

Apparently you can. Invictus tells the story of the newly freed Nelson Mandela trying to unite post-apartheid South Africa through the vehicle of the country's national rugby team. Great drama potential, right?

Here's what no one else is telling you: our man Clint--whose Million Dollar Baby is, in my opinion, one of the most perfectly made movies ever--dialed this one in. Maybe he thought with Morgan Freeman playing Mandela all you had to do was let the cameras roll.

Because that's pretty much what Eastwood did. There are long monologues of Mandela addressing the people, in political speeches that may have been riveting in the real life moment but fall flat on the screen. Freeman tries to hint at the personal sacrifice Mandela paid for being imprisoned for almost 30 years--his wife and daughter remain estranged even after he is freed and becomes President Mandela. But there is not enough of it. We never get a chance to fully experience the human Mandela because Eastwood gives us so little screen time and interactions of Mandela in one on one conversations. The longest we get is when Mandela invites Matt Damon's character--Francois Piennar captain of the South African rugby team--to tea to convince him that the team can win the Rugby World Cup and united a divided South Africa.

"Invictus" is a great idea for a movie--sports unite a divided country--and Freeman gives his typical fine, elegant & nuanced performance. Damon's role is pretty minimal--we never learn much about who this guy is other than he's good at rugby and likes to lead by example. Damon looks very hunky all beefed up and the South African accent on him is fairly delicious.

The movie does reveal the astuteness of Mandela's political judgement--it was a stroke of brilliance & great risk on his part to support the almost all-white national rugby team when it symbolized white supremacy to the black population & national pride to the white population.

He calculated that by bringing the focus of the world onto South Africa for something positive--contending for world cup rugby--versus its racial struggles, the country might continue to inch forward in its path to life following apartheid.

I should tell you that I'm the lone voice in the wilderness on this one. It's alreaday received three Golden Globe nominations and will doubtless garner more award.

I could just never forget that I was watching a movie while viewing Invictus. It felt like a documentary, a fairly interesting one, but never quite the movie it could have been.

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