Movie Review – Invictus

Yes, I know that this post is so late it’s not relevant.

No, not all my movie reviews are going to be on Clint Eastwood and/or Matt Damon movies.

So, I just finished Invictus, a story set during the early part of Nelson Mandela’s presidency of South Africa – a time of enormous political and social upheaval for the country.  Mandela had to balance an overwhelming majority of vengeful black South Africans against an incredibly powerful minority of scared white South Africans.  He preached a message of forgiveness, of ending the cycle of hate, and of being more than “they” expect you to be – more than you think you can be.  He is a highly inspiring figure to millions of people.

Which makes me wonder, “Where was he in this movie?!?”  Don’t get me wrong, he’s in the movie.  Mostly as a quiet, phenomenally dedicated, wise and compassionate old man.  Freeman plays the role beautifully, masterfully bringing the grace and depth he naturally embodies to Dr. Mandela.  He is given some powerful words on the nature of forgiveness and the impressive power it can have in transforming the world.  But I really expected the movie to be more about him.  While he was certainly fleshed out – especially by his strained relationships with his family – there wasn’t a whole lot of movement in his story.  I expected to see more of the mental and emotional strain leading the country put him under rather than the physical.  I expected to see more policies beyond having the Springboks play rugby with kids, and to see more resistance to those policies.  I expected to see an assassination attempt, especially considered how much of the movie focuses on his bodyguards.  I expected to see a more dramatic confrontation between his daughter, and maybe some reconciliation.  But none of that was really there.  There was mostly just rugby.

Now, I don’t have a problem with rugby.  A good friend of mine played in high school (they went to nationals, no big deal).  I laugh when I see rugby, but that’s only because my gay former roommate found rugby players incredibly attractive.  And I don’t have a problem with sports movies, even if they’re almost all exactly the same.  But I think rugby should have been the backdrop for this story, not the story itself.  It was cool to watch, and Matt Damon played his character well, but I didn’t sign up to watch a Nelson Mandela movie to sit through two hours of rugby.

I think I’m coming off more anti-Invictus than I really am, so let me clarify.  I liked this movie.  The music was well-done.  I love Clint Eastwood’s cinematography personally.  I think it’s beautifully shot and framed.  As I’ve already said, the actors all impressed me immensely, and the story itself isn’t a bad one.  I just wanted more of it.

So, overall, I enjoyed it.  I would recommend it.  I would also preface that there are better Morgan Freeman movies, better Matt Damon movies, and better movies from the year out there.

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