Firstly let me say that in 1995 I stayed up till crazy hours in the morning to watch the All Blacks get beaten in overtime during the Rugby World Cup final. I felt empty and very unsatisfied at the outcome. Sitting there with a stack of friends all crowded into this smallish lounge in Epsom, all of us were dumbfounded. This was our year to win the world cup. We had longed to re-live the glory of the 1987 victory. Yes I know, this sounds a little too serious for just game, but back in 1995 we actually loved the All Blacks and their coach. We had faith in them and they seemed invincible. (Which ironically is “Invictus” in latin)
It didn’t take long for the stories of mass food poisoning within the All Black camp, which of course in turn gave life to rumours of deliberate poisoning by the opposition. So in general terms the majority of New Zealand felt hard done by and somewhat ripped off by the loss.
So with that set of feelings in mind, I went in to watch Clint Eastwood’s telling of this moment history from a very different perspective to mine. “Invictus” tells the story of a country broken and hurting. South Africa was a country torn asunder by the separation of colour and the dawning of a new era of legal equality. Apartheid may have been removed legally and yet even with the election of a black President (Mandela) this was a country still haunted by the old ways the old colours. For the population of black South Africans, the colours, the name and the logo of the “SpringBoks” still reeked of the oppressors.
So as we see in the some of the earlier opening moments of “Invictus”, the white South African’s cheer on the SpringBoks while the black South African’s were cheering for any team going up against the SpringBoks. Of course Mandela (Morgan Freeman) sees this not as a barrier but yet as a possible tool to re-unite a nation. Despite their dismal form leading up to the World Cup, Mandela inspires the Captain of the team, Francios Penaar (Matt Damon) to pull his team together for one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.
I should point out here that the tile of “Invictus” comes from a poem of the same name written in 1875 by William Ernest Henley. This poem was one of the things that kept Mandela’s soul alive during his incarceration.
I really enjoyed “Invictus”. It was beautifully filmed with outstanding dialogue that moves the soul to rejoice amidst such immense racial tension. All though I heard others saying that they didn’t feel that Freeman captured Mandela, I believe he did. With the help and support of some wonderful location shooting including the SpringBoks visit to the actual prison cell that Mandela spent his twenty-seven years imprisoned within. Through Eastwood’s use of flashback ghosting these moments as Penaar stands staring out the window from within Mandela’s cell, are deeply moving and somewhat inspiring. This also comes out in the dialogue when the night before the World Cup final Penaar’s partner asks if he is thinking about tomorrow. Penaar responds with, “No, tomorrow will handle its self. I was thinking how a man could spend thirty years in prison and come out and forgive the men who did it to him.”
The hardest thing for me watching this film was the complete change around I had in my thoughts and attitude towards this particular rugby match. The first time I watched the game I felt robbed and that my team had lost. This time I found myself feeling elated at the sight of them losing. In fact now I feel somewhat excited that I had been awake and watching one of the great moments as sport, politics and freedom collided.
Reviewed by: Jon E Clist
Release date: June 9th, 2010
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Scott Eastwood, Robert Hobbs, Langley Kirkwood, Bonnie Henna, Grant Roberts, Patrick Holland
Length (Minutes): 132
Aspect Ratio: 1.78 : 1
Subtitles: Dutch, English, Finnish, German, Italian, Korean, Swedish
Supported Audio: Dolby Digital Surround 5.1
Director: Eastwood, Clint
Studio: Warner Bros
• Vision, Courage, and Honor (114mins)
• Mandela Meets Morgan
• Matt Damon Plays Rugby
• Invictus Music Trailer
• The Eastwood Factor