17 December 2009 | Matt_Layden
Well Made, But Completely Forgettable
Nelson Mandela has been released from prison and was voted as the South African president. Wanting to unite his country, he found a way to do so with rugby and in the South African team captain, Francois Pienaar.
Morgan Freeman was born to play this role, he knew so, and that's why he produced this film. A dream project of his, waiting for someone to take the job of directing, his old friend Clint Eastwood steps in. Who says no to Clint? Especially Freeman, who under Eastwood's direction won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Invictus, William Ernest Henley, which is read by Mandela in the film, is well crafted and has a strong lead role. Unfortunately, the film is a by the numbers product that you seem to forget once you leave the theatre.
My main problem with the film is the lack of emotion. I couldn't care for any of the characters in this film, save for Freeman, who as I stated does an excellent job. Matt Damon, who is shown on the poster, has the supporting role here. But he is given absolutely nothing to do except play rugby. His character has no story to him, but aren't we suppose to believe in him? After all, Mandela does. He gives him inspiration to win the world cup. Matt Damon does an alright job, but nothing worth mentioning. The same goes for the rest of the cast, they seem to be there just because the story is based on real life.
Eastwood knows how to direct a film, the Academy seems to think so too, so you know going into it that it well be well crafted. This is Eastwood's first step into a semi sports movie genre. The sport is rugby, and after watching the film, I still have no idea how to play it. The final act of the game is in slow motion as well, clichéd? You know it. You can hear every grunt from every player. It is elongated to the point of annoyance. The rugby sequences did not pull me in, nor did I care for who was going to win. It doesn't feel like he is trying to step out of his comfort zone either. It feels like an Eastwood movie, take that as you want.
The best parts of the film, are when Freeman commands the screen. His presence is more interesting and entertaining than any of the rugby scenes. Speaking of a rugby scenes, I must say that every 'epic' shot of the fans in the stands looked horribly fake. At some points I thought I was watching a PS3 game. It really took me out of the experience of the film.
If the film were a bit shorter and more focused (is it a sports film or character driven film?) than I could maybe invest my interest. It seemed to balance both as nice as it could, but ultimately gave out to one more than the other and unfortunately it's the weaker part. Eastwood chooses to sidestep more important things in the film. Is this because of the script? Are we suppose to want to keep watching Mandela inspire a rugby team to unite nation? The racial undertones are there at the beginning, then completely forgotten. In the end, I wanted more from this film.
The film is not bad, it's moderately good. Some scenes are actually inspiring, but that's more because of Freeman and not the generic script. I guess I wanted a little bit more from this one. Everyone involved made it seem like it should have been a great success, instead it comes off as something that everyone just decided to throw together. This is another film that belongs in that category of good, but not good enough for me to want to recommend it to you for theatre viewing.