For the most part, I don’t really like biographies. They are usually far too formulaic, long, and dull. However they can work when the filmmakers decide to choose a specific moment of the person’s life and focus on that. This is the technique used in The Queen a few years ago, and its what Eastwood does here, using the 1995 Rugby World Cup to tell the story of Nelson Mandela.
The courage of Mandela to promote forgiveness in the face of the black population’s desire for revenge is a strong theme in this movie and one that is well-handled. Freeman is good in this role, even though it took me a while to buy him as Mandela instead of Morgan Freeman, but by the second half of the film i did. Matt Damon is also very strong as the captain of the Springbok rugby club.
The story and themes are very engaging here without verging too far into melodrama, which is usually the danger of a movie such as this. But Eastwood knows what he’s doing for the most part and manages to keep things genuine. There are some head scratchers, such as a weird moment with a jet, but on the whole its a solid film.
The major problem with Invictus is the ending where they play the World Cup final against the All Blacks. Unfortunately, Eastwood can’t avoid keeping this movie from entering the realm of sport movie cliches where the final game is way too long and way too predictable. It just felt like they were prolonging the credits. But otherwise, they stay strong with their theme of uniting a country after a terrible period in history, using this national sports team as their catalyst.