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Invictus – Rating: A

Submitted by on December 18, 2009 – 10:28 AMNo Comment
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Sports have a natural ability for being able to rally people behind a common cause.  In Invictus, which opened last weekend, that is exactly what Nelson Mandela was counting on.

MandelaMandela was fresh out of Robben Island prison and newly elected to be the first post-apartheid president of South Africa in 1994. Years of hostility had left the nation dangerously split even with apartheid ended. Mandela knew this and knew that he had to do something as president in order to bring both sides of the country together. He knew he needed to “balance black aspirations with white fears.”

The racial divide was never more evident than when watching the national rugby team, the Springboks, play. Whites in attendance cheered for the Springboks; blacks cheered for whoever was playing the Springboks. Even though everything about the Springboks symbolized apartheid to the black population, Mandela still saw the rugby team as a means of unifying the nation. To that end he enlisted the help of the team captain, Francois Pienaar, to lead the team to victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

This movie was destined for greatness when they signed the major roles. Mandela is played by the ever capable Morgan Freeman and team captain Pienaar by Matt Damon. With Clint Eastwood behind the camera it would be hard not to turn such a compelling story into an excellent film.

Chances are the movie will play stronger internationally than here in the United States. Rugby is not very well-known in the United States where sports such as football, baseball, and basketball dominate the national conscious. The rugby action that is shown is pretty easy to follow even if you are not aware of how the game is played. A clinic the team holds with some local youth gives people a chance to learn a few of the basics as well.

Even if you are not familiar with the game of rugby it is easy to appreciate the story. Morgan Freeman does an excellent job of portraying the South African president; he is very believable as the sage, older leader. Eastwood does an admirable job of piecing together the different events of the story and portraying the racial divide at its worst and as it gradually changes.

Invictus has everything that the Academy Awards loves- superb acting, a moving, true life story, and a world class director. At the least, Morgan Freeman should be nominated for his portrayal of Mandela and Eastwood for directing (as well as Best Picture). Unlike most Oscar nominated pictures this is one you actually want to see.

Beer: Lion Lager from the South African Breweries- as the sponsor for the Springboks in the 1995 Rugby World Cup Finals it is only appropriate that this beer be reviewed with this movie. Known for having a very malty taste with a touch of bitterness at the end, this golden colored lager will not incapacitate you if you have a few coming in at just 5% ABV.