Movie Review: Invictus

Invictus: The true story of how Nelson Mandela joined forces with the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, Francois Pienaar, to help unite their country. Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of apartheid. Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa’s underdog rugby team as they make an unlikely run to the 1995 World Cup Championship match. (Plot synopsis from Yahoo! Movies.

There are sports movies, and then there are movies like Invictus, where sports becomes a backdrop upon which larger themes are worked out. In this film, rugby becomes more than a sport – it is one of the ways that Nelson Mandela brings his country together into the Rainbow Nation.

After spending 27 years in prison for working against apartheid, Nelson Mandela is elected as president in the first completely democratic South African election. He is faced with the impossible challenge of bringing together the blacks and whites of the country, people who have been raised and fed on hatred, fear, and bigotry. The blacks have much reason to hate the whites and to want to celebrate Mandela’s election as revenge. Mandela, however, will not allow that.

He comes into office with a goal of reconciliation, which starts with forgiveness. Can you imagine? He offers jobs to all the staffers of the previous administration, even though some of these staffers were working with a president who imprisoned him! The depth of his forgiveness and grace and mercy is simply unfathomable.

To the blacks of South Africa, rugby, and their national team, the Springboks, are symbols of apartheid. The newly elected sports administration wants to simply disband the team and start over, but Mandela knows that this will do more to tear the country apart than fix the wounds of the past. With his encouragement, the Springboks continued as the country’s team, and under the president’s instruction, they embark on a tour of coaching clinics in villages all over the country. Soon, rugby is the national sport, not simply the white man’s sport. When South Africa makes it to the 1995 World Cup, their ability to beat the New Zealand team is doubtful – but the entire country is cheering them on.

Invictus is brilliantly directed by Clint Eastwood, and stars the inestimable Morgan Freeman as Mandela. Matt Damon costars as Francois Pienaar, the captain of the Springboks. (On a side note: I am continually amazed at the versatility and talent displayed by Damon, especially as we recently watched The Informant!, in which he plays a completely different character, and does so to an equal degree of believability.)

This truly is a must-see movie.

If you would like to read the text of the poem that inspired the title, the poem that kept Mandela determined to prevail through all those years in prison, you can read it here.

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8 Responses to Movie Review: Invictus

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    The kids and I were looking for a movie to watch “pay per view”, and this one caught my eye. I know it was nominated for various Oscars. We ended up watching Sherlock Holmes, which I thought was pretty lame overall. My son got up 3/4 of the way through. I wish we would have ordered this one!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..The Heart Is Not a Size – Beth Kephart =-.

  2. I’ve been wanting to see this one since I first heard about but we never did make it to the theater. I think that may have had something to do with my husband’s lack of interest in it. Hopefully it’s coming up soon on my Netflix list! I am glad you enjoyed it, Carrie. It really does sound like a must see movie.
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..Question of the Day: Book Buying =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Wendy – I am lucky that Kevin and I have pretty similar taste in movies – barring my affection for romantic comedies. 🙂 This is definitely one we both loved.

  3. Serena
    Twitter: SavvyVerseWit

    I really enjoyed this movie about Mandela and South Africa! I just watched it this weekend with my husband, which is interesting since he usually picks sports movies and I don’t like them much. I think that using the sport as a backdrop for the larger issues in the nation was brilliant…and I love how Mandela was portrayed…Freeman did an excellent job bringing the iconic figure to life.

    I haven’t met Mandela, but it has always been a dream of mine to meet a man that remained so calm and compassionate despite the injustices he faced.
    .-= Serena´s last blog ..My First Publishing House Tour =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Serena – I think it would be incredible to hear / see him speak in person!

  4. Sharla says:

    I’ve been wanting to see this movie for a while, but haven’t had a chance yet. I’m so glad to see a good review. I was surprised that it didn’t play in movie theaters for very long (at least not where I live). I had to memorize a few poems for a Victorian literature class that I took last year; this was one of the poems I chose. Great poem. Love it!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sharla – it is a beautiful poem. This film didn’t come to our little one-screen theater in our rural town. We have to wait for a lot of movies on DVD because we live in such a small town.