Invictus Review

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Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela-- it feels so right when you first think of it, doesn't it? The two look so similar that children growing up during the era of both apartheid and Driving Miss Daisy could be forgiven for confusing the two. But Freeman, despite his many talents and uncanny ability to seem like a comforting paternal figure, isn't exactly a chameleon, and while he very much looks the part of Mandela in Invictus, the transformation into the halting-voiced leader of a nation is never quite complete.

Such is the problem with much of Invictus, a movie filled with many moments that do work, struggling mightily against heavy, heavy clunkers that do not. As evidenced very much in last year's Gran Torino, director Clint Eastwood doesn't exactly have a light touch when it comes to race relations, so the Mandela portion of his film often features scenes so transparent, the director may as well step on the screen and proclaim "Why can't we all just get along?" As for the rugby, which makes up the other half, it's a very classic story about an underdog team rising from the top, and the movie thrums along nicely on the usual sports movie tropes. If only anyone had bothered to tell us exactly how rugby is played.

The important thing, though, is that the remarkable true story behind Invictus is properly told, and with a gravity that makes all the stakes clear. When Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa in 1994, the country was still deeply divided over the wounds from apartheid, and even the white members of the Presidential staff were convinced that Mandela would fire them immediately in favor of blacks. Meanwhile the national rugby team the Springboks remained a symbol of the apartheid era, bearing the old South African flag's color of green and gold and boasting just one black team member.

Despite overwhelming black support for abolishing the team altogether, Mandela meets with the team's captain Francois Pineaar (Matt Damon) to convince...
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