Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Invictus (2009) – Review

Invictus is a film about overcoming obstacles, forgiveness and reconciliation. The film has two sections, if not two structures to it – a political biography of Nelson Mandela and a feel good sports film (not unlike Rudy) – both narratives melding together for the third act. Mainly due to the nature of the film and being based on actual events, the characters never really overcome obstacles that seem impossible. Mandela’s greatest barrier was surviving prison and becoming president, yet the film has him already in office at its start. Thus, Mandela’s drama is bringing the divided nation together now in office, which the film argues was done through the success of the rugby team (as well as affairs unseen), yet the rugby team never really faces emotionally provocative obstacles either (at least from the audience’s perspective). Clint Eastwood is not able to convey the hurdles that they did face as being miraculous (even though they were) which effects the overall success of the film dramatically. While a film like Miracle is able to visually communicate the magnitude of the events, Invictus falls short as the viewer never feels like the Springboks might actually lose (again we know they do not, but the film should still make it seem like they might for dramatic effect), nor do the events of the film feel as significant as they actually were, due primarily to the directorial choices made by Eastwood. The film felt distant, especially in the stadium scenes. It felt as if the viewer was not truly emerged in the action and atmosphere of the event. The most moving scenes in the picture are the more personal moments, those involving the interplay of the team, notably the scene in which the team visits the slums, and Mandela’s relationship with his staff. While Mandela is the main character of the film, his involvement seems to be there only to set the stage for the rugby, his most interesting struggle being over once the film has already begun. It would have been quite interesting to see how Mandela transformed the nation. Aside from his involvement in rugby, the affairs of state were mostly glossed over leaving the main character of the film to be there merely to augment the seemingly secondary narrative. Pienaar does not have too much to do as a character, but Matt Damon still plays the role well. In terms of acting, Morgan Freeman has the much more purposeful role, in terms of dramatic work. Despite the narrative and cinematic downfalls of the film, it is still a good movie. It succeeds at telling the story in an entertain fashion, but at times it feeling a bit more like a movie of the week rather than an Oscar contender. 7/10

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