Clint Eastwood sets a very high standard with his movies, Gran Torino was arguably my favourite movie of 2009 (at the very least my favourite 2D movie…) Invictus seems like a strange movie to me; not being South African, and not much of a rugby fan, I had no idea that the winning of the Rugby World Cup in 1995 was that big a deal for South Africa. What’s even more strange for me is that after seeing this film, I still wasn’t convinced.

I’m not actually arguing whether or not it was an important moment for South Africa, but what I am suggesting is that whatever is that Invictus was trying to convey, I wasn’t feeling it.

It’s hard for me to put my finger on what this movie actually was, it’s not a rugby movie, despite the setting. The movie does make it clear that it really isn’t about the sport itself, but what it represents, and the movie, perhaps deliberately does little to use the matches themselves to convey any drama at all. I wasn’t sure if that was a deliberate effort to not focus on the rugby itself, or simply the result of a director who likely wasn’t all that familiar with the intricacies of the sport.

Nelson Mandela is a great man, who has endured a lot and achieved so much – but I never really credited “winning a rugby world cup” as one of his achievements.

Rather than being a movie about a nation overcoming a dark history of division among its people by uniting together through a game of rugby, it comes across more like a powerful leader’s misguided obsession with a sport he knows little about rather than focussing on the day to day running of his country.

I’m pretty sure that’s not what Eastwood was going for. Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela with the kind of reverence that would have you believe that he was the second coming of Christ (or a reincarnation of Buddha), in a performance that kind of says “give me an award because I’m playing Mandela and he’s a legend, right?” Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar as a quiet, humble man, so much so that it contributes to the legendary aura of Mandela this movie tries to convey.

Eastwood would have you believe, the Springboks didn’t win the World Cup, Nelson Mandela did.

The intentions of this movie seem honourable enough, but the movie just doesn’t work.

And of course, there is no mention of any “food poisoning” of the All Blacks in the grand final, but then, who really believes that happened anyway?

Three stars.

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