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Invictus: Movie Review

Genre: Drama, Biography
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Scott Eastwood, Langley Kirkwood, Penny Downie
Released by: Warner Bros. Pictures

In Short: Combining an amazing true-life sports saga with the seismic changes that occurred in South Africa when Nelson Mandela took over in 1994, “Invictus” is a fascinating look into how the love of a sport and a team can shift deep-seated prejudices and attitudes.
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Rugby Unites a Country in “Invictus”

Remember when Nelson Mandela was elected the president of South Africa, back in 1994? Director Clint Eastwood wants to make sure you do, and with his new fact-based flick “Invictus,” he succeeds admirably in bringing those troubled times to life.

Morgan Freeman gives a knockout performance as Mandela, the gentle man who helped change a nation, moving South Africa’s black population into the forefront and breaking the chains of apartheid that had separated black from white in that fractured country for centuries.

Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon in Invictus Matt Damon in Invictus

The story of “Invictus” (Latin for “unconquered”, the title springs from an 1875 poem by William Ernest Henley) follows Mandela’s determination to use South Africa’s national rugby team, the Springboks, to help bring the country together emotionally. That goal was a tough one, as the team traditionally represented only the white Afrikaners; so much so that the blacks in South Africa---including Mandela himself, during his long imprisonment---would cheer for anyone but the Boks.

But Mandela knew that if the team could do well in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which South Africa was hosting, he could make giant strides in pulling the country together. So he enlisted the help of Francois Pienaar (believably portrayed by a super-buff Matt Damon), the team captain, and together they began a campaign of changing the image of the team to embrace all the people of South Africa.

In the hands of consummate storyteller Clint Eastwood, “Invictus” is a fascinating, uplifting story of how the love of a sport can change people’s lives, in this case shifting a bitter, deep-seated hatred into pride over the Springboks’ success, turning South Africa into a country full of fans, proud to call the team their own. But the film is much more than that. It’s a window into a time and place where seismic change was occurring, and a reminder of the genius of one man, Nelson Mandela, and his vision for a united South Africa.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

Updated: (02/10/10 AR)

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