It’s that time again – holiday movie season, leading up to Oscar contenders for the year! Beyond my obvious obsession with waiting for Avatar, I’ve been looking forward to a few releases. The first was Invictus, which I saw last night.
I figured, the film has a lot of things going for it – Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela? Awesome! A movie about rugby? Double Awesome! Clint Eastwood directing? Okay, so not entirely awesome, but not entirely bad. Matt Damon as hot lead rugby guy who will inevitably have his shirt off and be physically beat up half the film? Seriously, I didn’t really need to be convinced to go to the theater.
So, it’s okay. The film tries to be a sports movie AND an interesting biographic sketch of an international icon. On the first front, there wasn’t much different than any other sports movie. Perhaps they thought, well, rugby is sort of novel and setting it in South Africa is novel. There is one message – sports is a great cultural unifier. Well, … duh. Every sports movie ever made has that message. And the racial twist isn’t even that interesting – I mean, this guy designed a whole class on it (check out CES 222)!
On the second front, I’d honestly rather have seen a dramatic piece on Mandela. The film didn’t even feel all that Eastwood – he’s known for long, drawn out characters, and you really didn’t get much in the way of developing Mandela as anything more than a brilliant saint that saved his country (which, I’m not arguing he didn’t do – but people are more complex than that). The only scene that struck a chord was when the rugby players visit the prison Mandela was in…and, unfortunately, I spent most of that scene waiting for Morgan Freeman to say “Andy Dufresne - who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.”
I got the feeling Morgan Freeman REALLY wanted to play this part, and that’s why it happened. He might get an Oscar nod, and maybe even win it if the category is weak this year…but I certainly don’t think it’s his best work by any means.