Invictus Review

Invictus might be one of the best examples of how not all great and epic events in history work as a movie. Even one that centers around an exciting and intense sport such as rugby. A man, the president of a divided country, uniting his citizens by rallying everyone around the national rugby team is obviously more than just noteworthy, especially considering he accomplished it for the most part. It's huge. Nelson Mandela, fresh out of prison, becomes the president of South Africa and wastes no time; he witnesses his people cheer against their own team at a rugby match, and makes a risky connection that if all the people, blacks, whites and everybody in between, can get behind their rugby team, the Springboks, then there is a chance for peace.

Nelson Mandela in real life was no doubt highly accomplished and revered. Since a movie's a movie, and the filmmakers shouldn't be relying on the viewers' prior knowledge of a central figure, let's focus on how the movie depicts Nelson Mandela. As portrayed in the movie, he is a highly courageous individual. His political partners and security team, all as new to him being in power as he is, admonish him countless times about this rugby business. Why waste time on this when there are troubles with the economy and crime on the streets? His rationale is understandable to few but he does not budge. A rugby seed has buried itself deep into Nelson's head, and it's doing nothing but growing. So much so that he dully explains it to about every person who will listen, which is unfortunately every single person he comes across, since he is the president. I think about four or five times Nelson gives the same basic powerful speech which becomes less and less powerful each time. One can imagine that under Clint Eastwood's directing, which is insanely awesome, and insanely slow and drawn out, repetitiveness creates boredom faster than you can say “make my day.” We understand Nelson's motives after twenty minutes into the film, yet we hear him explain his rationale too many times.

And it's quite an idea Nelson has, to unite his countrymen through the love of a sport. Rugby is not too difficult a game to understand, at least I don't think it is. They never go over any rules in the movie, but I got the idea. Perhaps the audience is supposed to just think about this as football with polo shirts? And there's a group hug in the beginning of a match? For a movie aimed at a U.S. audience, not explaining the basics of an overseas sport would have been a daring move. However, there isn't much rugby to this movie. The movie is centered around rugby, but save for the last half-hour, seldom is a rugby ball in use. There is a lot of us watching people watch rugby and be concerned about rugby, but don't expect too many thrilling moments where there are a few seconds left on the clock, they group hug, pitch the ball and someone scores at the last second. This isn't a sports movie.

It's a movie about politics and peace. As far as Invictus is concerned as a film covering those themes, it's pretty good. However, under Eastwood's masterful but slow hand, be ready for a solid and great looking movie with heavy bouts of boredom and sighs. It's epic in its importance and gravity, and worth a watch if you have 130 minutes free, but it's just not terribly entertaining. I recommend this if you want the well-directed, but at times painfully dry, cliff notes on an unforgettable slice of human history.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

Apart from a long-cut trailer, there is some awesomeness to be had: an interesting short film about Clint Eastwood that is prefaced by its director as a shorter version of what will soon be a longer version of a documentary about Clint, from his start in the film industry to present day.  It's interesting if you find Clint Eastwood interesting.  There's a short piece about rugby, and specifically, Matt Damon playing rugby.  It's called "Matt Damon Plays Rugby."  Lame title, but it's actually pretty interesting, especially if you are unfamiliar with the sport, as it gives insight to the sport itself as well as the involvement of the cast and crew with rugby being at the center of the film.  There's a great piece about Mandela himself as well as about the development crew's and Morgan Freeman's relationship with him, insofar as his role in the movie.  Also, Blu-ray flexes its muscles by providing its audience with a sa-weet picture-in-picture commentary as the movie plays out by the cast, crew and some folks who inspired the characters, giving us tidbits as we watch, instead of the typical audio commentary.

"Invictus" is on sale May 18, 2010 and is rated PG13. Drama. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Anthony Peckham (screenplay), John Carlin (book). Starring Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Marguerite Wheatley.

Ryan Katona

I grew up in the Midwest and couldn't be prouder of it. There wasn't a whole lot to do though, and since not being athletic was one of my favorite pastimes, watching movies became a hobby. The hobby turned into a career pursuit, which led me to the east coast. I'm now excited that I get to share my two cents on movies.


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