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Movie Review: Invictus

 
Prinz Lee image

Prinz Lee wrote this review 6 years and 1 month ago

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Written 12/11/09

"Invictus" is the latest effort from Oscar-winning film maker and Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood and as far as his already excellent canon of work goes the movie does not fail to disappoint. The film, aside from being obvious (if not a bit too eager) awards season bait is foremost an honest, straight forward and heartfelt political/sports drama which centers on the "1995 Rugby World Cup". Starring Morgan Freeman as President Nelson Mandela.

The movie is the story of "Jacobus Francois Pienaar" (an excellent Matt Damon) and how he led the South African Rugby team the "Springboks" to victory, culminating in the first major sporting event held in his home country after the apartied of
South Africa. Mandela's meticulous calculation in helping his countrymen win the event was not only a heavily politically minded one but also one of genuine compassion meant to elicit global attitude changes about race relations, social structure, and world trade. Eastwood carefully explores this territory in honorable fashion but it is the intimate character study of two men which serves as the film's driving force and heart.

Mandela is a quiet, gentle, and noble soul and Freeman is more than adequate to bring out these sorts of emotions and leadership qualities (even if he may not always physically resemble the man). Damon is terrific as Pienaar, a young
Rugby captain whom having came from humble origins and a slightly prejudice family; learns from Mr. Mandela to channel his experience towards leadership. Pienaar is transformed by a visit to Mandela's Prison Cell (in one powerful scene). The film is as much about the workers surrounding Mandela's new progressive organization as it is about a conflicted country that learns to better themselves by tolerance and acceptance for their fellow citizens.

Eastwood directs the film with an assured hand and a quiet disposition. Invictus is not a play by numbers rousing sports drama like "The Blind Side" was (no offense and yes, no pun intended) but instead it resembles his more recent work; contemporary dramatic pieces which exude authenticity and genuine emotion. Eastwood is inspired by his material and as a result the finished product is inspired as well.

The movie is exceptionally accurate, technically proficient, and dramatically sound without being sensationalistic or phony. Much like his other work like “Gran Torino,” “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Million Dollar Baby,” Eastwood is not interested in juggling a bunch of subplots in a rampant ballet of climax and emotion. Invictus is slow, deliberate, and heavily structured. Each scene progresses one at a time and doesn't seem to (at first glance) lead to any particular destination but instead (like most of Eastwood's work) relies heavily on craft and sound acting.

Hardly anything this year in film could be more justifiably praiseworthy than Morgan Freeman's and Matt Damon's chameleon-like performances. These two men are the very definition of: "make it look way too easy". Both share an understated charm, quiet emotional complexity, and genuine understanding of the material. The script is also excellent and mostly serves as a launching platform for establishing impressive sequences which elicit the emotional scale necessary for this sort of thing.

The final game, while admittedly orchestrated and predictable (they did win) is filled with a genuine sense of pride and dignity. Invictus works as a character study, a political drama much like "The Last King of Scotland" did a few years back but it also works as a sports drama and a story about a country that perhaps some too young to remember should at least read or hear about. This is one entertaining piece of work, a real pleasure to behold. You can't say that very much anymore. Rest assured, one leaves Invictus feeling much more fulfilled than used up. A shoe-in for best directing, acting, screenwriting, and picture nominations at this year's Academy Awards.

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