There are many aspects of Mandela's political achievements that Clint Eastwood (Gran Torina, Million Dollar Baby) could have focused on for his movie Invictus. But, interestingly, he has chosen to tell us the story of how Mandela (Morgan Freeman) used rugby to unite the nation around a common goal. Calling on the captain of the national rugby team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) Mandela indirectly encourages him to lead the team toward victory at the 1995 World Cup which South Africa hosted.
Invictus never quite rises to the heights it seems intended to. Sport does have, of course, the potential to unite a nation and this aspect of the movie is articulated well. However, the dramatic tension isn't enough to evoke the emotional engagement that a story like this should have.
Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon do a great job (especially Damon's tackling of the accent!). But the screenplay they have to work with is so formulaic that it is quite plodding. Certainly, Mandela won a great political victory with the country's winning of the cup and the way it brought people together in the moment. And there are some scenes where the tension between white and black are adequately played — particularly in the first part of the movie. But, overall, the screenplay was repetitive and lacklustre. This is one of those movies where the real history was more significant than this particular telling of it.
'It’s an exciting sports movie, an inspiring tale of prejudice overcome and, above all, a fascinating study of political leadership.' - A O Scott/The New York Times
'The result is earnest, admirable and more than a little dull -- a pedestrian movie about a remarkable subject.' - Rene Rodriguez/Miami Herald
Brief strong language