‘Invictus’ a Tough Sell, But…

InvictusI was very surprised at the small turnout for the opening weekend numbers of Clint Eastwood’s latest work, Invictus.  The term ‘invictus’ is Latin for ‘invincible’ while there is also a famous poem of the same title.  Both of which have strong influences on this film starring the astounding talents of Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as South African rugby captain, Francois Pienaar.  The film covers a very turbulent time in South Africa’s history.  Nelson Mandela has just been released from prison, soon after he becomes President and finally there’s the task of getting the nation’s rugby team up to some respectable standards.  It’s a tall order to cover this trident of focal points while developing characters and carrying the story to a level of make-you-feel-like-you’re-there believability.  Eastwood pulls it off…to an extent. 

The rugby team’s rise to greatness is captured in an ‘ok’ sense.  I expected something inspirational along the lines of Rudy, but that’s not what I got.  Rather, we see the team get better as the movie progresses, but we don’t really see how.  We know they’re training hard and Mandela’s visits to the team are uplifting, but these things alone won’t propel you to the top; especially since the team was an exhausted band of cellar dwellers some months earlier.  Was it the team’s leadership that raised spirits?  From the film, it’s possible that that was a contributing factor, but it’s difficult to tell for certain.  Damon does well in his role but the writing and direction didn’t allow for the audience to see really how much of a leader Pienaar was to his comrades on the field. 


Another questionable portrayal was that of the Mandela’s relationship with his wife and daughter.  Though you never see his wife and you get the occasional glimpse of Mandela’s daughter, you really don’t understand why there is such ambiguous resentment unless you know the family’s true history.  As I do not, it made those scenes of little value to me.  Why introduce characters supportive of the main players if you are not going to develop their back-story?  That was the case here.  There was a dramatic moment and poof…we get the impression that mom isn’t crazy about dad ,but we just don’t know why and it’s never revisited.

Mandela’s political landscape is captured well as is his distracting love for the game of rugby.  However, while many Americans are aware of Nelson Mandela’s plight of being politically persecuted, few know or care to know about the rugby team.  Whether it’s arrogance or just a cultural difference, Americans eat, breathe and sleep our version of football.  Rugby appears to be a less complex version of our game and for whatever reasons, we as a society have no desire to go down rugby road.  This is what makes the film a tough sell Stateside.  Nevertheless, one of the best deliveries of the film is how Mandela’s African and Caucasian bodyguards begin to gel as a result of the uniting effects of a nation’s winning team.  This display of camaraderie is universal. 


What I’m about to say is a possible spoiler if you are not familiar with the history down there in the 1990’s….the South Africa team wins the 1995 Rugby World Cup.  As the clock ticked away on the closing seconds of the title match, I braced myself for all the wonderfully positive adjectives I was going to use for the celebration scenes that were about to commence.  Unfortunately the celebration was not as grandiose as I expected.  Boooo.  So much for the black guy/white guy arm in arm, embracing in the name of victory and unity.  The movie does have a little charm of its own and I do suggest a rental when the time comes, but for now, save your bucks on a theater visit of Invictus


Invictus Theatrical Poster



1 Response to “‘Invictus’ a Tough Sell, But…”

  1. Brian White

    Wow! I really thought you were going to tell me this was the BEST thing since you saw the go-go dancer in Captain Clegg’s band.

    I am very sorry and saddened to hear you did not care much for the film’s execution. Sadly to say, the ending you described sounds just like the disappointment I felt when watching Marky Mark’s Invincible. They both could have been so much more!