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Invictus (2009)

His people needed a leader. He gave them a champion.

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 133 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A

Clint Eastwood making a film about the sport of Rugby? Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela? Matt Damon putting on an accent? Some ideas just look plain wrong on paper but Invictus actually turns out to be a very rewarding and heartwarming watch. The main asset Clint has going for him is an excellent true story to base the film on – one of the many fine episodes to come of the end of Apartheid-era South Africa.

Invictus focuses on Nelson Mandela’s (Freeman) relationship with the South African Rugby team. In post-Apartheid South Africa the team was still known as a bastion of white domination and institutionalised racism and hated by the blacks. Even Mandela used to support whoever was playing against them. When the 1995 Rugby World Cup came to South Africa, wily old Mandela saw this event as a chance to galvanise the country – black and white – behind the team and to show a united front to the world. He struck up a special relationship with captain Francois Pienaar (Damon) and the team found a newfound popularity which propelled them through the tournament.

Invictus succeeds as, on the whole, it is very grounded and not overly sentimental. Time is given to the problems and the nonsensical hatred that are still prevalent in a hopeful yet deeply flawed society. Much time is allotted to be speaches and thoughts of Mandela and Morgan Freeman is excellent as the President. His look, voice and mannerisms are distinctively Mandela. How could I ever have doubted a man who made penguins exciting? Also, refreshingly, for a sports film, the action scenes are done professionally. Rugby is depicted as sufficiently brutal and realistic and gives a good impression of the game to newcomers to the sport.

Undoubtedly, Invictus is extremely cheesy. After showing initial restraint it all goes slow-mo galore and adds cringing dialogue and affixes a permanent grin to everyone, all with an increasingly awful soundtrack. All this adds to the feel of a made-for-TV movie that is evident throughout. Nevertheless, this tale of courageous leadership and togetherness will leave the viewer with a warm feeling. If it doesn’t, you are dead inside.

It's Got: A spot-on portrayal of Nelson Mandela, a brutally realistic depiction of Rugby, an occassionally awful soundtrack.

It Needs: To cut some of the cheese.


Much better than it should be, Invictus is carried by a truly inspiring true story.