25 September 2013

Film review: Invictus (2009), by Clint Eastwood, *****


What does Nelson Mandela do after becoming president of South Africa? He rejects revenge, forgives oppressors who jailed him 27 years for his fight against apartheid and finds hope of national unity in an unlikely place: the rugby field. Clint Eastwood (named 2009's Best Director by the National Board of Review) directs an uplifting film about a team and a people inspired to greatness. Morgan Freeman (NBR's Best Actor Award winner and Oscar nominee for this role) is Mandela, who asks the national rugby team captain (Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Matt Damon) and his squad to do the impossible and win the World Cup. Prepare to be moved--and thrilled.

The Invictus Blu-ray special features include an exhaustive "picture-in-picture" option that shows background on the film's production while you're looking at the relevant section in the movie itself; comments come from members of the filmmaking team as well as some of the real-life folks involved in the true story. We also learn that the film's single most powerful scene, a visit to the cell Mandela occupied for so many years, was shot on location; a replica had been built on a sound stage to allow for greater camera movement, but Clint Eastwood wisely nixed that idea.
President Mandela hands the 1995 world cup to Springboks' captain Pienaar


An essential film to understand how present-day South Africa came about in the mid-1990s. it is recommended to anyone trying to see the difference between Mandela's approach and that of other leaders in the region, who chose confrontation over cooperation after kicking out white minority rulers. Mandela gives us all a great lesson in humanity as well as shrewd politics. This film has the great merit of reminding the world of an episode that would have otherwise been forgotten.

" Invictus " is a short poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley (1849-1903). It was written in 1875 and first published in 1888.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

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