Monday, February 08, 2010

Invictus


Clint Eastwood's potent new film is based on a true story about a newly elected black president struggling to unite citizens divided by racism. The president is Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman), who was voted into office the year before, in the country's first free election. The challenge facing Mandela is to find a way to make peace with the apartheid forces that put him in jail for three decades. Mandela figures that battle should take place on, of all things, the rugby field.For the blacks in South Africa, rugby was a symbol of the Afrikaners, the white forces behind apartheid. Mandela believed that if he could harness the power of the Springboks, the South African team captained by Fran├žois Pienaar (Matt Damon), and host the 1995 rugby World Cup games, he could cross a racial and cultural divide.

Finally a movie with a great story the whole family would enjoy and want to see again.A movie that would inspire anyone to go beyond what they think their capable of in difficult circumstances. Shows great strength in character.

I found this film to be a good example of the best of story telling. All the components, in my opinion, are there. The directing was evident throughout, an expression here and there told more than dialogue could have. The juxtaposing of Soweto to the presidential palace emphasized the extremes that made up South Africa under the white oppressors. I feel I learned something good, something to be applauded.

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.

This film spoke to me as it is so relevant to the turmoil facing America right now. Just like President Obama,Nelson Mandela was a black man facing a racially divided and economically devastated state. Nelson Mandela didn't choose sides to try to drum up support or ingratiate himself with either side. Rather, he sucessfully brought the nation together and united a fiercely divided people. Clint Eastwood brilliantly depicts this remarkable achievement, and casts one of our finest living actors, Morgan Freeman to literally embody Mandela in almost every facet. Freeman doesn't do a simplistic caricature, rather he rips into Mandela's sould and illuminates the man's motives, passions and sentiments in a captivating fashion. Eastwood may have failed in many ways recently with Gran torino, but he proves himself a master with INVICTUS.

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