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Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge, Adjoa Andoh, Julian Lewis Jones, Marguerite Wheatley, Scott Eastwood, Isaac Fe’aunati
Language: English (Mainly), Afrikaans, Maori, Zulu, Xhosa, southern Sotho
Invictus is a sports biography based on a brief episode in the lives of Nelson Mandela, the South African President and Francois Pienaar, the Springbok (South African rugby Union) captain. Invictus is based on the book by John Carlin- Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation. It shows the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
In 1994 Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) was elected as the first black president of South Africa. His presidency faced a lot of challenges in the post- apartheid era. Crime and poverty were at the peak and with the ever growing racial divide, the entire country needed some inspiration. But co-existence of both parties was essential. As though the blacks were in majority but the white minority controlled the army, the police and the economy. This could only happen if the blacks were ready to forgive the atrocities. And the white to accept the blacks as part of the society out of freewill and move on. The need for a common goal got Mandela fixated on the idea of showcasing a unified South Africa to the world. And he asked the country to rally behind the National Rugby team in the upcoming World Cup 1995.
It is often said that Soccer is a black man’s game and Rugby a white man’s. And It was no different with the Springboks either bar one. Springboks were the symbol of South Africa, it was their national pride and the name was there from ages before. But to the blacks they symbolized apartheid and racial discrimination so instead they supported the soccer team. The racial divide was so pervasive that the security team comprising of the white and blacks had differences. One of the white guys quoted “Soccer is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans while Rugby is a hooligans game played by gentlemen”.
So to unite the country Mandela arranged a meeting with Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) and shared his experiences at Robben Island. And gave him a British poem titled Invictus by William Earnest Henley that had inspired him. This meeting changed Pienaar’s view of Mandela and spurred him on to lead the change. And more importantly win the World Cup for the country. From then on the movie goes about showcasing the change in the attitude of people. And their coming together to celebrate the World Cup success. Security guards unite, Pienaar’s family, (the racist father included) warms up to their housemaid Eunice. And the black kids, till now following only Chester start supporting the whole team genuinely.
Invictus provides a different take on Nelson Mandela. Morgan Freeman has acted as if he was born for this role. He is so good and such a natural that I remember when Mandela died, people in social media tagged Morgan Freeman and poured their condolences. Invictus shows the human side of Mandela- he is a leader with an unprecedented task but he also has his own problems. Family which he has sacrificed for the sake of his country being one. But he is confident and calm with a steely resolve and more importantly a leader who led by example. One of the stand out traits I personally liked was his attention to detail. One of the security personnel said it is impossible to be invisible to him. Matt Damon is good in his role with his accent and bulky body and commands an equal presence.
Invictus is a not a trade mark Clint Eastwood movie. His movies always have one tragedy and its repercussions like Gran Torino or Million Dollar Baby. But there was nothing like that which makes it light to watch. The Rugby sequences are natural and the use of original rugby athletes gives it validity. Its a little slow and the overly dramatized rugby scenes in the end build up the tension. Overall its a very nice movie made for all ages, specially for sports lovers who need for some inspiration. Invictus tells you how a sports can shed away all the differences of race, religion and unite people.
Also a special mention to the Maori War song by the All Blacks team before their final. It is intimidating and as real as possible. It is one of the highlights of Invictus and in my list, one of the best sporting moments in movies.