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Invictus
BLU-RAY disk
05.27.2010 By: Jason Adams
Invictus order download
Director:
Clint Eastwood

Actors:
Morgan Freeman
Matt Damon
Adjoa Andoh

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A charismatic, newly elected black leader must unite a country divided by economic issues, political unrest and racial tension. Sound familiar?
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Even though he claims he’s done in front of the camera, Clint Eastwood has proven himself a good enough director that I look forward to whatever he makes in spite of the subject matter. INVICTUS is a great tale to be told, but you know exactly the kind of inspirational, feel good movie you’re getting with it (and not just because it’s based on an incredibly famous true story). But thankfully, under Eastwood’s directions that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

If you’ve been following film news for any amount of time, you’ll know that Morgan Freeman has been campaigning to play Nelson Mandela for years and I can’t think of an actor that would be better suited to the character or his remarkable story. Freeman is great in INVICTUS as the iconic South African leader, bringing a sense of effortless grace and wisdom to the role that’s already difficult. We meet Mandela right after he’s elected President and must deal with the immediate issues plaguing the country, by way of their national rugby team. It’s plenty of story and drama to support an entire film, but given the wealth of possible material about Mandela’s life story and coupled with Freeman’s expert portrayal, you almost feel like this is not the nelson Mandela movie you wanted.

Matt Damon has the obvious secondary role, but brings his all, including conquering the difficult South African accent (which I can’t hear anymore without thinking about DISTRICT 9. Nelson Mandela vs. aliens…there’s a movie I’d watch.) Although physically Damon is a far cry from the enormous François Pienaar, he’s convincing enough as the heroic team captain on and off the field. But it’s on the field where I have my biggest issue with INVICTUS.

Granted, rugby is more of a plot device than the focus of the movie, but considering the important role it plays, INVICTUS doesn’t do a very good job handling the game. Eastwood breezes through each match except for the final one and never really bothers to explain even the basic rules of the sport. So if you’re not already familiar with it, there’s a decent chance you’re going to be lost or at best simply not connected to whatever action is going on in the field. There are plenty of chances for explanation, especially when Mandela himself has to learn about the game, but we don’t even get a commentator during the match to explain what is going on. And the basic filming of the game is pretty bland and unexciting. There are big stretches that are statically shot from the sidelines.

Sports issues aside, INVICTUS works as an inspirational sports story, but also as a timely film. It’s near impossible not to see the comparisons to Obama’s current situation. (Good timing, Clint!) So, Mr. President…want to fix all our problems? Easy. Just lead the U.S. to victory in the World Cup this year…in South Africa. How fitting would that be?
THE EXTRAS
Vision, Courage and Honor: A nice picture-in-picture option that provides interviews with cast and crew and behind the scenes footage while the movie plays. It’s not as flashy as the Maximum Movie Mode in the WATCHMEN and 300 Blu-Rays, but it’s an informative feature.

Mandela Meets Morgan: A fantastic video chronicling the meeting of the actor and world leader, which is pretty awe inspiring to watch. There’s also a generic bit about the casting process itself, but this half-hour extra is definitely worth watching to see Freeman interact with Mandela.

Matt Damon Plays Rugby: Pretty self explanatory and to the point. Damon meets the real life Pienaar, who helps him train to be a convincing rugby captain.

The Eastwood Factor: A nice 20 minute documentary chronicling the career and impact of the legend that is Clint Eastwood. Very well put together and presented by Time Magazine’s Richard Schickel. (If you like this, you can check out the full documentary on the new Eastwood 35 Films 35 Years box set.)

Trailers.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
INVICTUS is a fairly standard inspirational sports movie elevated by great acting by Freeman and Damon, solid direction by Eastwood and a timely true story. Hopefully someday we’ll get a more in-depth film about Nelson Mandela.

Extra Tidbit: Nelson Mandela has said that Morgan Freeman is the only actor who can ever portray him on film.
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