If there's anything about Invictus that is great, it is Clint Eastwood's brilliant direction. A director known for creating melodramatically lopsided films, this time has taken the most uninteresting part of Nelson Mandela's life and made a movie out of it. Leaving out his years in prison, his struggle against the apartheid in South Africa and his rise to presidency, Eastwood chooses to focus on his involvement as a cheerleader(pun intended) for a rugby game.
There're problems everywhere in South Africa- people are homeless, shortage of food, crime rates are increasing, people are unemployed and the economy is down. Nelson Mandela has all of these problems to fix but there's no urge. He needs a driving force. That is The Springboks rugby team of South Africa. Francois Pienaar leads the rugby team. Mandela leads the country. This is what they have in common. He wants Pienaar to lead Springboks and win the world cup so that he can draw inspiration from it to lead his nation to stability.
Morgan freeman is an actor who slips into roles that he can fit in. He doesn't get into a character out of his comfort zone, unlike the great Daniel Day-Lewis, one of the most daring actors of today. His accent and mannerisms are similar to Mandela's, yes, but even that sometimes goes out of synchronization and reminds us that this is Morgan freeman, not Nelson Mandela. When I think of biopic actors resembling their subjects, the first that comes to my mind is Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull- a complete disappearance into character. What went in and came out was De Niro, but that character had nothing of De Niro in it. Freeman will be remembered for The Shawshank Redemption and Million Dollar Baby, not for Invictus. He probably had some left over love from the Academy to be preferred over Sharlto Copley in District 9.
Matt Damon's vigorous Oscar-worthy performance as the uncompromising Springboks captain is filled with the right amount of power that is required from a supporting role. After being snubbed for The Talented Mr.Ripley, this was a good make up by the academy.
Both of these actors are just the underlying bricks that Eastwood uses to build something that lies solely on his shoulders. His talent as a filmmaker seems to age like wine. Last year, we saw him transform from a good actor to a great actor and this year, he proves once again that as a director, he's legendary.
Most people are calling it this year's Frost Nixon, but personally, it brought back memories of Slumdog Millionaire. An entire nation following something, rooting together for the same thing with the hope of being able to share the team's joy.
This is a film where you know exactly what is going to happen once you've watched the trailer. A straight-forward film with a predictable trajectory, nonetheless an enjoyable one.