Clint Eastwood’s latest feature film has little to offer other than the presence of Morgan Freeman in a role that should have generated Oscar buzz. But sadly, as it is, “Invictus” is a somewhat lackluster presentation of an otherwise interesting piece of history. I like Clint Eastwood. Who doesn’t? So, I will see anything the man has to offer as a filmmaker or as an actor. But I have to say that you should probably wait until Invictus is on DVD or cable to bother seeing it. Although the film is based on a rather interesting bit of side story of the tumultuous time when Nelson Mandela was the newly elected President of South Africa and how he used the country’s underachieving Rugby team to unite the people behind a common cause, the film comes nowhere close in capturing either the spirit of the sport or the tensions of a country divided.
I don’t know if it is the script’s fault or Eastwood’s. There’s nothing wrong with the film per se; it just doesn’t draw you into understanding the great feat that was accomplished by Mandela’s bold and unusual maneuver of getting the black population to rally behind a traditionally all white sport during a time that the national team was facing the world cup as underdogs. In fact, it seems that the film relies too much on the audience already knowing what was going on in world politics at the time and how tenuous the relationship was between the public majority and the powerful minority. We are only ever given little glimpses into this situation through Mandela’s newly integrated staff (the most likeable characters in the film) and the family of the Captain of the Rugby team, played less than inspiringly so by a buffed-out Matt Damon.
Damon is supposed to represent the many Afrikaners who resent Mandela and what he stands for but cannot help be swayed by such an engaging and soulful man. However, the scenes between Damon and Freeman fall deadly flat, lacking any sense of synergy or poignancy. These meetings are supposedly what inspired the Captain to encourage his teammates to do their best and encouraged him to lead by example, but you wouldn’t know it by what you see or the scenes that follow. It all just looks like everyone is still going through the usual paces.
A film like Invictus should have you standing on your feet with anticipation when the final big game comes, but it failed to rouse even the slightest bit of excitement from a special pre-screening audience wanting to like this film. And I suppose they did. But I suspect that had a lot more to do with Eastwood as a cherished icon than anything to do with the movie itself. Were it not for the revered filmmaker and his relationship with Morgan Freeman, this film would likely never been made. I’m glad that it did, and it is worth seeing as a nice little film that offers Morgan Freeman in a spot-on turn as one of the greatest living men of our times, but if you’re expecting anything more than that, you might as well not go.Rating: C+