There’s no stopping Clint Eastwood. The multiple-Oscar winning octogenarian achieves another late-career success with this based-on-historical-events drama. Utilizing his characteristic no-frills style, Eastwood shows how president Nelson Mandela used the 1995 World Cup rugby championship to counteract South Africa’s deplorable legacy of apartheid.
Compassionate and consistently exciting, Invictus — Latin for “unconquered” — makes us privy to the fears and frustrations of the iconic leader. Mandela (Freeman) risks his political career to root for the national rugby team, a decision that initially distances him from his own supporters.
A tribute to the triumph of will, the underdog team tackles its way into the championship-ranks. The bone-crunching final match against New Zealand is filmed with fluidity.
The character-driven narrative unfolds at an unhurried pace. The tense relationship between Mandela’s black bodyguards and the newly-appointed Afrikaner officers is conveyed with conviction.
In a particularly poignant scene, the captain (Damon) and his rugby teammates visit the tiny cell on Robben Island where Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years. However, glimpses of the president’s family life are far too fleeting and appear to be tacked-on to the otherwise incisive screenplay.
In one of his most challenging roles Morgan Freeman, who had been associated with several unproduced biopics about Nelson Mandela, gives a commanding performance.
Despite some niggling flaws, Invictus is a soul-stirring achievement. Carry on Clint.