There is Hollywood's way of making movies and then there is the Eastwood way. Actor/Director Clint Eastwood stamps each of his films with his own imprint. They are straight to the point movies that don't waste the audience's time on superfluous events. This has worked for Eastwood in the past and it works for him again in his new film Invictus.
The film deals with the period of Nelson Mandela's life following his release from prison after twenty-seven years. Soon thereafter he was elected President of South Africa. He presided over a divided country. The blacks don't trust the whites and vice versa. In order to unite the country Mandela (Morgan Freeman) came up with the idea of using sports.
Rugby is the sport of choice in South Africa and the Springbok team represented South Africa. The team was lead by Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) and he and his teammates were far from favorites to win the 1995 World Cup. Still Mandela thought they could win and he enlisted the help of Francoise to inspire the team to greatness.
This is the bare bones of the plot and the bare bones of the script. We get glimpses along the way of the country, Mandela and Pienaar but there are no "getting to know you" scenes. It is either basic to the plot or it is not shown.
At first this lack of detail is off-putting but as the film progresses the audience is drawn into the quest for glory by the rugby team and with Mandela's vision of unity. The emotions of the story have a life of their own and eventually make the movie a rousing success.
Freeman is amazing as Mandela. He has the look of the man as well as his speech patterns. It is a perfect melding of man and role. Eastwood knows how to draw the best performance from his friend and he makes his performance a celebration of the power of Mandela and his place in history.
As Pienaar, Damon is very low key, which is in keeping with the role he is playing. Pienaar is an athlete, pure and simple. He appreciates the politics of what is happening, but he keeps his focus on the game. In every way Pienaar's life is second in importance to that of Mandela, and so it is with the screenplay. Damon has the supporting role and he enhances Morgan's performance at every turn.
The movie is rated PG-13 for profanity and sports violence.
Most of us know little to nothing about the sport of rugby, but that is not a block to enjoying this film. As long as you can appreciate the dream of unity Mandela has, and how he uses the team to achieve that goal then you will be able to follow the film. Freeman and Damon are at the top of their game and they are in the hands of the maestro himself. Eastwood does things the "Eastwood way" and ends up with one of the best movies of the year.
I scored Invictus an inviting 8 out of 10.
Jackie K. Cooper