Although the movie Invictus is only released in cinemas this coming weekend I was fortunate to get an early viewing this past Saturday and for me the film is simply brilliant. A week ago I’d decided to read Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom, so watching Invictus after having reread the book evoked a number of emotions and I must admit there were parts where I felt very teary. My colleague Graeme Codrington wrote a post below and mentions that today, the 2nd of Feb 2010 is exactly 20 years after Madiba was released. As a South African I find this amazing. Twenty years ago SA was on the brink of a bloody civil war, there are still problems but the SA I know today is a much better place than it was back then. In Invictus, Mandela played by Mr Freeman is portrayed as a man both burdened and blessed by having become a living icon after years of political struggle. Now as a newly elected President, Mandela takes his astute wisdom, insight into people, and incredible leadership to unite a nation still fearful on one another. I still remember clearly the 1995 world cup victory, how all South Africans partied in the street rejoicing the rainbow nation. The Economist has written an excellent review of the film and you can read it below. In Invictus, Mr Freeman and Mr Eastwood to made their sunniest film yet.
Extract from The Economist, Jan 28th 2010:
CLINT EASTWOOD’S “Invictus” has given Morgan Freeman, a 72-year-old ever-rising cinematic star from Memphis, Tennessee, his best chance yet to show what a canny actor he is. The year is 1995, just 14 months after South Africa’s first multiracial elections. Nelson Mandela wants to use the rugby World Cup, for white South Africans the absolute pinnacle of sport, to prevent the veneer of social unity from being rent asunder. Mr Freeman plays Mandela as a man both burdened and blessed by having become a living icon after years of political struggle, many of them spent as the world’s most famous political prisoner. But the newly elected President Mandela is determined to make use of his image rather than letting it use him, and no director could understand this better than Mr Eastwood, who has always kept ahead of his audience by ringing unexpected changes on his own star persona. The confluence of these three wily men—Mr Freeman, Mr Eastwood and Mr Mandela—has given birth to a perfect storm of a character study.
Frail and stooped at 76, the former revolutionary calmly bucks his closest colleagues during his first days in office by insisting that post-apartheid South Africa can survive only if fear and hatred are consigned to the past. Addressing a group that has just voted to change the name and colours of the Afrikaners’ beloved Springbok rugby team, which blacks consider a symbol of oppression, he coolly explains that he spent his years in prison studying the enemy, and rugby is the ticket to winning their hearts.
He deploys a quaint, courtly charm when he takes tea with the Springboks captain, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon), and discreetly lets him know that he would appreciate it if he would lead his losing team to a World Cup victory. And when he begins studiously memorising the names of the players and excusing himself from policy meetings to check on their progress, Mr Freeman lets the viewer glimpse the great man’s inner child, who is a mischievous boy becoming an ardent rugby fan.
The past casts only fleeting shadows: Mr Mandela finding a bracelet belonging to his estranged wife; Pienaar visiting the Mandela cell. By incarnating a hero for whom leading well is the best revenge, Mr Freeman has enabled Mr Eastwood, Hollywood’s avenging angel, to make his sunniest film yet.