Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Invictus: Grade D

Invictus (2009)
Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon; Director Clint Eastwood.

The historical basis for the story is that immediately post-apartheid, the South African rugby team (mostly white players), the Springboks, was seen as the creation of, darling of, and symbol of, the oppressive Afrikaner regime. At international matches, the whites would cheer the Springboks, but all the blacks would cheer the visiting team.

When Nelson Mandela became president (Freeman), he understood that to unite the country and prevent civil war, he had to get everybody cheering for the same team. So he urged the captain of the Springboks (Damon) to try really, really hard to win the 1995 World Cup. Using sheer determination, inspired to win one for the Gipper, Damon leads the impossible underdog team to victory. Who could’ve seen that coming?

Acting is unbelievably bad, the script obvious and predictable, and directing klunky. Freeman does a fair job imitating Mandela, and only he would have the stature to do it, but still, he is crippled by the awful script. “So what you’re saying then, is that it is very important that we beat the Australian team?” “Yes sir, very important.” Hey, what a dramatic setup! Other characters are equally stilted and stereotyped, reduced to spreading their lines between thick slices of ham. Rugby scenes go on and on, repetitively and interminably, without structure or drama, action for the sake of meaningless action.

Cinematography is above average however. There are some very fine speeches by Mandela/Freeman, and those may have been taken right from the historical record because they stand out so sharply against the rest of the sludge, but beyond that, this is a real snoozer and a missed opportunity to tell a historically important story of Mandela’s efforts to unite the country.

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