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August 30, 2010

Invictus (2009)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Actors: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge

Synopsis: The history of post-Apartheid South Africa, from the release of Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) in 1990, to the victory of the Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) led South African team at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

ReviewInvictus marks a worrying low in the recent prodigious output of Clint Eastwood. Although the functionalism, lack of pretension, and old-fashioned storytelling elements are features we’ve grown to admire in the late-Eastwood oeuvre, his portrayal of South African regeneration during the 1995 Rugby World Cup is ridiculously broad and sentimental. Where the story demanded a clear point-of-focus, Eastwood in the space of just over two hours manages to cover a narrative that throws in Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990, his election as South African president in 1994, the precarious state of the Springbok rugby team pre-World Cup, to their triumphant run in the tournament itself. This breadth of plot forces Eastwood to make a whistlestop tour through the proceedings, jumping in to various dramatic set-ups for blithe moralisms. He even throws in a couple of laughable subplots about the rivalry between white and black security guards, and the role of a cypher-like black maid in Francois Pienaar’s family home. The least objectionable aspect is Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon’s understated, noble performances in the central roles, though neither actor is given much shade to work with in their characterisations. Dare I say that even the rugby sequences are poorly shot. Though the movie has clearly been conceived for a rugby-ignorant American public, the fact that Eastwood invests so much importance and time in charting the results of the Springboks’ run in the World Cup, means he could have at least hired extras that were able to pass and kick rugby balls like actual professionals. (February 2010)

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