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Invictus (2009)

A 2009 film based on Nelson Mandela's life during the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa directed by Clint Eastwood

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A Sport Can Unify A Nation....

  • Jul 1, 2010
I’ve always had a fondness for movies directed by Clint Eastwood. I always thought that Eastwood directed with a steady hand, revolves around simplicity and that he allows the atmosphere to dictate the film’s mood. Little surprise that I would be checking out his latest movie called “Invictus” when it was released on dvd. The film is based on the book by John Carlin “Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation” and has earned Morgan Freeman a nomination for Best Actor and Matt Damon for Best Supporting Actor in the 2009 Oscars. Eastwood was also nominated for Best Direction in the Golden Globes.

Following the dismantling of Apartheid, former Political prisoner Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) assumes the presidency of South Africa and is desperately searching for a way to unite this nation still divided. His curiosity becomes aroused when he watches a Rugby game with South Africa’s squad called the Springboks led by team captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon). Mandela later invites Pienaar for tea to discuss the team’s chances in the 1995 Rugby World Cup with which the nation is playing host to. Inspired by Mandela’s efforts to unite the nation, Pienaar accepts the challenge and rallies the team to win the championship and a nation’s best chances for unification falls under a sport called Rugby…

                  Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar and Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela in "Invictus."

                 Marguerite Wheatley as Nerine and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar in "Invictus."

“Invictus” is actually disguised as a ‘feel-good’, underdog sports movie but in truth the film itself is so much more. Its title means “unconquered” in Latin and chronicles Mandela’s first steps in his presidency. Just what should one do when one has been imprisoned for ten years in a prison? Should one look for revenge and have the cycle of racism and unrest start all over again or should the wronged one be the first one to take the first step to unification? This first step would be forgiveness and this would be a great challenge for any man. Mandela looks to the future and decides to take his country on the road to recovery.

The Springboks team by itself is a character in the film. No, I don’t mean just because it is a team made up of players; I mean the name, its colors and what they represented--it is the last vestiges of apartheid. To counteract this, Mandela embraces this team as the next representation of change and forgiveness. Eastwood is a minimalist director and his style fit’s the film’s mood. I liked the way that the direction observed a sense of restraint, that instead of over blowing Mandela’s political conviction and the nation’s cultural wake, the screenplay opts to use some inspirational speeches, dialogue and poetry to get its point across. There is a lot of emotions to be had with “Invictus”, as the film focuses on Mandela’s burden that he carries upon himself. You see Mandela as a capable leader, and shows his understanding for his countrymen as his main strength.

                   Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar in "Invictus."

                  A scene from the film "Invictus."

The performances in “Invictus” are quite impressive. Nelson Mandela is a hard man to portray I would imagine but Freeman is amazing as the South African president. Freeman focuses on his character’s sense of doubt, his fears and concerns that ultimately define him. Eastwood makes Madela strong and yet so vulnerable but ever so confident. Damon is also impressive as Pienaar. He is a man with a strong sense of responsibility and commitment brought forth by the inspiration he has gotten from Mandela. There was a fantastic moment when Pienaar visited the prison from where Mandela was confined; and with Eastwood’s careful hand, the sequence was simple and yet so emotional.

I really don’t know much about Rugby and I do know more about American football. Well, the camerawork in the final game carried the usual Eastwood signature, it was kept at a distance with the occasional close ups while mimicking the usual shots that we would see when we actually see highlight of a game on TV. The games looked simple and yet so intense as we see the bruises, blood that the players suffer through. I was a little disappointed that the New Zealand’s “All Black” Team wasn’t as well developed as the Springboks; but I guess the direction just wanted to keep its focus on its crucial human message rather than resorting to the clichés of a sports drama.

Those who are looking for a grand Rugby game in the film may become a little disappointed; since this is a film about a nation and not really a sports drama. It is about ‘going for it” and believing in oneself as with any sports themed movie, but this time around the film has a strong humanity going for it--the unification of a nation. A unified nation is after all far stronger than one divided by hate; one needs to take this first step and then another man must follow before everyone else. Mandela and Pienaar together become those men.

Highly Recommended! [4 Out of 5 Stars]
A Sport Can Unify A Nation....

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July 14, 2010
I never liked Eastwood as an actor, but I love him as a drector! This is another review I had to scan because I'm planning on seeing it and I don't want to know too many details--although it's not really going to be the kind of film that relies on big plot twists is it.
July 16, 2010
me too, Karen. I think you'll like this one, especially if you like Eastwood's style in direction. Maybe you should make a list of your favorite Eastwood films in our community.
July 16, 2010
Like I said, not that much of a fane. As an actor it would be A PALE RIDER (really like Michael Moriarty) and THE EIGER SANCTION, oh, and TIGHTROPE too. As a director my very favorite would be LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA.
July 05, 2010
I just saw this movie and loved it. Great review, as always.
July 08, 2010
Thanks, Doug!
July 01, 2010
I need to see this one man, can't believe I don't own it.
July 08, 2010
yeh, what is wrong with you? :)
July 01, 2010
I liked this a lot, but it didn't feel like an Eastwood film, you know?
July 01, 2010
Well, the style feels like an Eastwood movie but I am used to him dishing out a bleak ending than a feel good climax.
July 01, 2010
Yeah, the whole movie felt too optimistic for Eastwood. And I think I may have been the only person who wasn't impressed by Morgan Freeman in this film and he's probably my favorite American actor too. Damon was actually really good though.
July 08, 2010
what? you weren't impressed with Freeman's performance?
July 08, 2010
Not as much as I was hoping I would be. Somehow, his eyes weren't as expressive (I blame the make-up department for this) and his accent wasn't consistent. He sounded more Hindi than African.
July 08, 2010
well, Hindi is better than a NY accent right? I remember Gere doing an Arthurian movie and he kept his accent LOL!
July 08, 2010
Yeah, "First Knight" which wasn't terrible. My mom loves that movie, but she doesn't know much about Arthurian legend. I had major issues with the casting and the script. I was impressed with the fight scenes though and Julia Ormond was pretty sexy as Guinevere.
More Invictus reviews
review by . December 11, 2009
It takes courage and vision to break a cycle of fear and resentment.
It has been an awfully long time since I have been wowed by a movie.  But that was precisely my reaction to the new Clint Eastwood film "Invictus" which debuted in theaters across America today.    "Invictus" recalls the 1995 Rugby World Cup tourney which was held in South Africa.  The World Cup was the first major sporting event to take place in South Africa following the end of apartheid.  But this is by no means a movie about rugby.  Rather …
review by . December 12, 2009
This Is More Than A Sports Movie, It's A History Lesson.
   If you think that this movie was going to be a dud, then think again. When ever Clint Eastwood (Director) and Morgan Freeman (plays Nelson Mandela) get together then you are assured of a winner at the box office. I think that this is going to be 2009’s movie of the year and it will probably get a lot of awards along with Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. This movie will take you back to the year 1995 and Anthony Peckham who does the screen play and John Carlin eventually wrote …
review by . July 15, 2010
   I just saw this movie this past weekend. I love all sports movies, but this one was different- there was a LOT of history and social messages in Invictus. I think it speaks wonders for sports for social change. It really shows the discontent among the blacks and whites, and how Mandela is determined not to reinforce that discontent. One of the scenes that resonated the most with me was when Mandela showed up to the sports meeting (I can't remember the name of the organization!) …
review by . September 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
         Invictus is more about the heart of President Nelson Mandela rather than the Bokks rugby team. This film paints a beautiful picture of forgiveness, courage and the strength that comes from choosing to walk the high road with dignity. Two of the people I viewed the movie with thought there was a lack of action. I tend to like slower character pieces so that may be why I liked the movie more than they did. There are moments where the film clips along and is about …
review by . January 04, 2010
Invictus left me speechless
One thing I've noticed about a lot of Clint Eastwood's movies is that they feel as much like literature as they do cinema. I'm not sure if this is because of the source material he works from, his very understated directing style or his actors who give very convincing performances. Whatever the answer, Invictus has a literary texture that will probably have most viewers leaving the theater feeling informed, inspired and most of all, satisfied.      The story begins with Mandela's …
review by . June 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I've always been surprised that there haven't been more Hollywood movies about Nelson Mandela. Invictus was worth the wait however. Rather than focusing on the obvious storylines of apartheid South Africa and the transition, Invictus looks at Mandela's relationship with the white Afrikaner rugby team. Overall, the film works amazingly well both as a political biography and a sports flick. Morgan Freeman really comes across as Mandela. Matt Damon does a good job as the rugby team leader (although …
Quick Tip by . June 09, 2010
So inspiring!! Words cannot describe, A MUST SEE!!
review by . June 07, 2010
Lots of sports movies are produced every year, and almost all are either romance or drama movies; the latter being about some individual or team proving or redeeming themselves to their fans or opponents. The list of "proving" movies, i.e. movies about teams or athletes that prove themselves includes Rudy, A League of Their Own, and The Mighty Ducks among others. The list of "redeeming" movies would include He Got Game, Hoosiers, and The Natural. Rarely, Hollywood produces a truly original sports …
Quick Tip by . June 03, 2010
The filming of this movie was weird. Looked very bad quality. The plot sort of got lost...
review by . May 19, 2010
Clint Eastwood seems absent from this little movie until the credits at the end. What could have been a powerful little drama ends up being a volley between a hero president of South Africa and a Rugby Field. Granted we know a lot about the extraordinary Nelson Mandela and his surviving imprisonment to be released and form a government that through his inspiration brought an end to Apartheid. This little story about how he focused on encouraging a Rugby team's determination and success in winning …
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About this movie


Invictus is a 2009 biographical drama film directed by Clint Eastwood starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. The story is based on the John Carlin book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted in that country following the dismantling of apartheid. Freeman and Damon play, respectively, South African President Nelson Mandela and François Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby union team the Springboks. Invictus was released in the United States on December 11, 2009. The title Invictus may be translated from the Latin as undefeated or unconquered, and is the title of a poem by English poet William Ernest Henley (1849–1903).
Invictus (also known as The Human Factor) is a 2009 feature film based on Nelson Mandela's life during the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film stars Morgan Freeman as the then South African President Mandela, and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the South African team captain.[2] The story is based on the John Carlin book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation. The film is due for release on December 11, 2009, and is already considered a "front-runner" for several Academy Awards.

A look at Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) from the fall of apartheid. The story is about Mandela's release from prison, his election ...
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Director: Clint Eastwood
Genre: Drama
DVD Release Date: May 18, 2010
Runtime: 134 minutes
Studio: Warner Home Video
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