Invictus by T. A. Moreland
It’s 1995; Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela became president of South Africa the year earlier after having spent 27 years in jail for leading the fight against Apartheid.
Invictus tells the story of how Mandela (Morgan Freeman) uses the South African rugby team, the Springboks, to help unite the country still reeling from decades of racial division. The Springboks deeply loved by white South Africa and just as deeply despised by black South Africans who viewed the team as symbol white racial domination. Mandela embraces the team and reaches out to the Springbok’s captain, Francois Pienaar, (Matt Damon) as a means of reassuring whites that their cherished institutions such as the team would not parish while convincing blacks that they too should become fans of their nation’s team. This was especially important since South Africa was hosting the world cup in Rugby that year.
Invictus while a fascinating and uplifting story fails due to the necessary ingredients to any great film: a powerful and legitimate conflict. The blacks have to be convinced to support a team they loathed. This was not a real issue because they so revered Mandela that at his simple request they became fans. The screenwriter also tried to create suspense by showing how the President’s life was in constant endanger. But it is well known that Mandela is alive and well despite being 91 years old. So any scenes trying to generate drama due possible threats to Mandela were undermined by the known facts.
There are a number of intense competitive rugby scenes but because the sport is not popular or the rules well known in the U.S. those scenes are decidedly uninteresting.
The acting is strong. Both Freeman and Damon show why they are two of the great performers today. However, Freeman’s performance is slightly flawed because he slips in and out of his South African accent.
Further at two hours and 11 minutes, Invictus is too much of a mediocre thing. It’s rated PG-13. It gets a RENT IT rating.