FILM RATING: 3 stars
Invictus (2009) is the story of South African President Nelson Mandela’s journey to unite his country through the sport of rugby when he was first elected. It’s an important historical story for South Africa and the world. And yet in the hands of gifted director Clint Eastwood, I just didn’t feel that importance in this movie. I wanted to get those same feelings that great sports movies like Hoosiers (1986), Rudy (1993), and The Blind Side (2009) convey. But something was missing from this effort. You could argue that Invictus isn’t really a sports movie and that it’s a character story about Nelson Mandela. But if it’s not a sports movie, then what is it? Because its got an awful lot of sports in it. Maybe that’s the whole problem with this film…it just doesn’t know what it is. Sometimes that works for a movie, but not this one. I give it 3 stars out of 5.
There is some filmmaking craftsmanship in Invictus that we see in the production design, cinematography, and acting for this film. Although the cinematography seems a bit underwelming compared to Eastwood’s other films of the past decade. What I think this film is mainly lacking is direction and story/plot. I never felt like the movie was really going anywhere other than where I knew it was going…a big win on the rugby field. But that wasn’t enough to give me the payoff I was looking for. And while Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon try to convey aspects of who their characters are, I just didn’t connect with either character. They felt too forced. I did think Morgan Freeman was completely believable as Nelson Mandela, but I didn’t care enough for his cause. Maybe I needed to understand more of the pain and experience of his imprisonment and the country’s racism to feel passionately about what he was up to as President? I’m not totally sure what more could be done with this story. I just know that it didn’t connect with me like I hoped for. But the film is worth watching at home on DVD/Bluray or on one of the premium movie channels where I saw it recently. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but it struggles to rise above its mediocrity as just a “good” film.