Invictus

Courtesy of Warnerbros

Courtesy of Warnerbros

Invictus bears its name from a William Ernest Henley poem, which Nelson Mandela (the former President of South Africa and humanitarian inspiration), reflected upon every day of his 27 years of incarceration on Robben Island, furthermore it draws it subject matter from John Carlin s seminal book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation. The spaghetti man himself, Mr. Clint Eastwood is behind the camera, showing the world once again that he is more than capable. Eastwood’s directorial fruits appear to have first flourished with 2003 s Mystic River and followed suit with the likes of Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima, Changeling & Gran Torino. This film however, is set at the time of the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, at the very inception of Mandela’s historical presidency, following his release from imprisonment and the end of apartheid. Eastwood s creative trajectory is proving to be as unpredictable as ever, in that despite his rich iconic past, he has re-invented himself again and again with films that challenge various taboos and issues in the expedition of compelling film-making. Invictus is no exception.

Madiba is played by the perfectly casted Morgan Freeman, which although a predictable move, Freeman never fails in both his conviction and deliverance. Freeman not only looks like Mandela but as a method actor communicates all the mannerisms that we have come to love about the man himself.  The only depletion being that his accent tends to stray from Nelson to Shawshank Freeman, but however such imperfections help to ultimately compliment rather than denunciate this Oscar worthy performance. Tremendous support comes in the unexpected form of Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, Captain of the South African Springboks national rugby union, unexpected in that Damon provides a performance that is completely unfamiliar to his usual Bourne identity, and as such provides another insight into what we first saw with Good Will Hunting and more recently in The Informant. The two share an onscreen presence and relationship that provides further gravity to an already integral piece of work.

Cinema has not reflected upon the monumental story of Nelson Mandela too often, the reasons for this are unclear, however there has been Billie Augusts Goodbye Bafana and a notable TV execution called Mandela and De Klerk with Sidney Poitier portraying the great man. Eastwood’s film is the first of its kind, with Hollywood tackling the troublesome issues of South Africa s recent history. Mandela himself has seen and congratulated Eastwood for this adaption and it manages to convey the significance of the political and social climate dictating the consensus at such a vital time in one man s life and career, the film manages to convey a strong sense of urgency in the fundamental issues over-shadowing the presidency at this time and the opposition Mandela faced in his support for the Springboks (since it was the purest representation of apartheid).

Freeman’s Mandela declares in a pivotal scene in a meeting with Damon’s Pienaar, the two men at the fountainhead of such troubles, that Henley’s Invictus taught him stand when all he wanted to do was lie down. Eastwood balances the personal struggles and challenges of Mandela s newly democratically elected government with the responsibilities and ramifications of a rugby tournament as though the two were the same, and in doing so, demonstrates the significant time of fragility that Mandela s nation was facing in light of past events and a look to a completely uncertain future. Invictus has been labeled as a rugby film, and although rugby itself does take up quite a large portion of screen time, it is the metaphorical nature and temperate of its institution and legacy in relation to the affirmation of a new nation in which the story lies, the struggles of one nation and what two leaders face in order to step forward from the troubles of the past and this is so delicately and astonishingly conveyed that it can be seen in every throw and kick of the breath-taking adrenaline- invoking climax of one rugby match where the fate of the nation rests upon the outcome.

However, such investment in just one of many factors is not fully historically faithful, but none the less shines a refreshing light into an issue that would perhaps be easily forgotten. In addition one cannot help but feel that Mandela is easy pickings for the Oscar season at its weakness is sensationalist humanitarian plights, however Mandela and apartheid is by no means an easy task to tackle and Eastwood as does such with a respect and contemplation that is deserving of any accolade.

If you’re a rugby nut then there is plenty in this for the sport spectator, but this film should not be stereotyped by the means as to which is conveys its message, it is a strong and intelligent reflection on what history has taught us and the troubles humans have brought upon themselves. For anyone who is void of apathy should seek Invictus for vital viewing in understanding what troubles the world has faced and still faces today.

Invictus Trailer starring Morgan Freeman

To find out more : http://invictusmovie.warnerbros.com/

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