Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Nelson Mandela had witnessed first hand, the unimaginable hardships brought upon by the Apartheid regime in South Africa. He had endured 27 years of vicious incarceration as a political prisoner. Mandela became President of his country and was adamant that the only way forward was in governing impartially. The film was adapted from John Carlin’s book, ‘Playing the Enemy’, while the title refers to William Ernest Henley’s 1875 poem which Mandela cherished within the tiny confines of his prison cell.
Below: Front cover art for the R1 DVD release, the UK DVD release and the Region free Blu ray cover.
In 1995, South Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup which became the perfect opportunity for Mandela (Morgan Freeman) to unite the nation in support of their team, the Springboks. Matt Damon turns in a convincing performance as Francois Pienaar, the inspirational captain of the Springbok team. It was Morgan Freeman who introduced the script to director Clint Eastwood (his 29th film as director) in the hope that he would accept. Freeman had openly aired his opinion of Eastwood and regards him as one of the best directors in the business. Eastwood found the script fascinating and the project was soon set in motion. For Freeman, it was a dream to play Mandela, and the charismatic leader had previously stated that Freeman was the only actor who could possibly play him, should a project ever reach the screen. The film opens with the release of Mandela and shortly thereafter his elect to presidency. Rather then drawing heavily on the man’s ‘life story’ in the typical style of a biopic, Freeman and Eastwood chose to focus on the Rugby World Cup as the reconciliation point, and as a result, cleverly delivered an historical drama based around a sporting spectacle.
Freeman’s performance brings integrity and wisdom to the role of Mandela. It’s a role you feel he was naturally born to play and is simply quite stunning. For all his efforts, Freeman was rewarded with another Oscar nomination. Matt Damon, fully beefed up and under the guidance of Pienaar himself, is also quite outstanding, capturing the Afrikaner accent perfectly. His performance as Pienaar also gained Damon a worthy Oscar nomination for his outstanding supporting role. Sadly, both actors missed out in what was a particularly strong year at the academy awards. But as Eastwood as stated, he’s in the Filmmaking business, not the Oscar winning business.

Eastwood’s film succeeds in that it doesn’t rely upon Mandela’s political aspirations through politics itself. It is a simplistic portrayal of an arguably much heavy theme. However, Invictus unfolds gracefully and in line with Eastwood’s tried and tested theory of ‘less is more’. The film has a genuine feel good factor and an overall uplifting sense of grandeur.

And why shouldn’t it?

It is after all a triumphant story, a celebration, not just of a single man, but of an entire nation. Invictus leaves the viewer with a sense of inspiration and proves particularly poignant in light of South Africa’s current hosting of the 2010 Football World Cup. Yes, South Africa is a nation that still has its problems, but has nevertheless come a very long, in a considerably short period of time. Eastwood’s film is a remarkable achievement in that it portrays a passionate (if uncomplicated) account of a nation’s rebirth and a country’s long road to recovery. As with all of Eastwood’s projects, it remains an accomplished and compelling piece of story telling… and something of a rare commodity in filmmaking today.

The standard DVD release comes with a featurette, Matt Damon plays Rugby: Turning a Hollywood star into a Ruby Player and an Invictus music trailer.

The film is also released on Blu ray and contains:
Matt Damon Plays Rugby: Turning a Hollywood star into a rugby player
Invictus music trailer
Vision Courage and Honour - Clint Eastwood and the Power of a True Story (Picture in Picture): Clint Eastwood explains in-depth what attracted him to this story and how he fought to bring it to life on film.
Mandela Meets Morgan: Get to know Nelson Mandela as Morgan Freeman meets with him to prepare for the film
The Eastwood Factor: A Clint Eastwood documentary (22 min version)

Special Thanks to Bridget Groller of WARNER BROTHERS for supplying me with this DVD and for their continued support of The Clint Eastwood Archive

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