Monday, 27 October 2014
Review : Invictus
Invictus : Nelson Mandela had been released from prison, Now a free man, he begins in his first term as the South African President. As President he initiates a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
In today's review, I'll be reviewing Invictus. (which takes its name from the WE Henley poem) The film interperates the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela joined forces with the captain of South Africa's rugby team to help unite their country together. Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains radically and economically divided in the wake of apartheid. Believing that he can bring the people of South Africa together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa's rugby team as they make their historic run to the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship match.
The film opens with an introduction, of Nelson Mandela finally being released from prison. Mandela is ostensibly talking about the country as a whole, though he may as well be exhorting Invictus itself. Invictus is a monolithic sporting saga that seems content to pose on the podium, lulled by the belief that its subject matter provides inspiration enough. At times it feels as though Eastwood has elected to skip the contest and proceed straight to the trophy presentation.
It's not that Mandela's turbulent first year as South Africa's president is lacking in drama. Invictus, which has its UK premiere tonight, plays out in a land scarred by apartheid and facing an uncertain future, led by an man still regarded by large swaths of the population as an unrepentant terrorist hell-bent on settling old scores.
The genius of Mandela was in somehow managing to soothe these tensions, cajoling his countrymen towards an uneasy truce. But in charting this struggle, Eastwood sticks too close to the playbook and frames history as an airbrushed Hollywood heartwarmer. The implication is that, by the time our hero takes his seat at the world cup finals, none of these issues was ever a problem again.
Casting about for a symbol of the new, integrated South Africa, the newly elected president hits upon what initially seems an unruly and divisive candidate. The Springboks rugby team are not just languishing in the doldrums, they are also seen as a bastion of old white rule and therefore despised by the black majority who cheer whatever team is playing them. But Mandela spies an opportunity. He celebrates the Springboks' lone black player and sets out to woo its foursquare captain, François Pienaar (Matt Damon).
What I love about Invictus is that however dry the scene is, it achieves pure drama so effortlsy, through the communication of the cast to relay an emotional, sentimental point of what it is addressing, that in turn helps the veiwer to understand what they are watching.
Decent acting keeps it halfway honest. While hardly a dead-ringer for Mandela, Freeman turns in a diligent, nuanced impersonation that at least hints at the private man behind the public image. His Mandela is by turns wise and wily; his seraphic smile concealing a life of shadows. Meanwhile, Damon makes a good fist of his role as Pienaar, although his character is seldom allowed to be more than a plot device: the Afrikaner who sees the light.
The trouble with Invictus is that it is more monument than motion picture: handsome, reverent and heavy. Judged in terms of creativity, spectacle and drama, Invictus might as well be stuck on Robben Island.
Overall, There is more about it than it let's on, in terms of it being more to point of about the team, the game and uniting the country of South Africa. I will give it a 7/10.
NEXT : Fury