Sunday, January 3, 2010

Movie Review - Invictus

Invictus - **1/2

Directed by:  Clint Eastwood

Starring:  Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon

Review:  This movie was well made and well acted but ultimately fell short of what I thought it could have been.  Walking out of the movie, the phrase that popped into my head about this movie was that it's "reach exceeded it's grasp."  The movie had lofty aspirations and started along the road of being a politically charged message movie but ended up falling short of that goal.

The movie centers around the election the end of apartheide in South Africa and the subsequent election of Nelson Mandela as president.  After apartheide was abolished, the country was in a state of civil unrest as those that were being discriminated against now had a new sense of empowerment, and those that discriminating were afraid of what the future held for their country.  These peoples' fear was further exacerbated by Mandela being elected president after his 26 year tenure in prison.

Now I am not all that familiar with Nelson Mandela, besides what I learned in school, but it seems to me that Morgan Freeman does a pretty good job of showing this man's true love for his country and for the freedom and equality of his people, while still showing the imperfections that this man has just the like the rest of us.

The main force behind the movie involves Mandela's critical move to try to help the South African rugby team win the rugby World Cup in an attempt to unite the country.  In order to do this he taps the rugby team caption Francois, who is hesitant at first about his idea.  After visiting kids around South Africa in an attempt to spike interest in the sport, Francois begins to see how winning this tournament could unite the country.

Damon's performance as the rugby team captain is understated and suited for the role.  His transformation from someone who is tepid at first, but begins to see the bigger picture is very evident and well done.

The first half of the movie centers mostly around Mandela and his attempt to win over the part of his country that is against him.  Getting two sides that have been apart for so long to work together is a challenging task and the challenge is displayed well in this movie.  The movie does a good job of showing how the small steps taken by few can have a large impact on the unification of the nation.

However, where the movie ultimately fails is in taking this road and framing the challenge ahead of Mandela but then eventually abandoning that path for a more sports oriented movie.  The second half of the movie switches towards more of a "Miracle" type sports movie, about how the country gets behind the sports team, but doesn't seem to outline as much how this event unites the country.  The people of the nation take a great interest in the rugby team and join together in rooting for the team, but this has been done before, this has happened before.  I understand that this is most likely the starting point of getting the country united, but the movie seems to build it up as the defining event that completely unites the country, and that is not the case, it is merely the beginning.  This is the only issue I had with the movie but it is a rather large one and I think the movie could have been structured differently to allow the path it was taking in the first half to continue throughout the movie.

What cannot be shortchanged is the great acting and directing that this movie had though, as always for all people involved, it was all top notch.

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