What does Nelson Mandela do after becoming president of South Africa? He rejects revenge, forgives oppressors who jailed him 27 years for his fight against apartheid and finds hope of national unity in an unlikely place: the rugby field. Clint Eastwood (named 2009's Best Director by the National Board of Review) directs an uplifting film about a team and a people inspired to greatness. Morgan Freeman (NBR's Best Actor Award winner and Oscar nominee for this role) is Mandela, who asks the national rugby team captain (Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Matt Damon) and his squad to do the impossible and win the World Cup. Prepare to be moved--and thrilled.
Blu-ray special features include an exhaustive "picture-in-picture" option that shows background on the film's production while you're looking at the relevant section in the movie itself; comments come from members of the filmmaking team as well as some of the real-life folks involved in the true story. "Mandela Meets Morgan" (shouldn't that be the other way around?) is a half-hour making-of that includes irresistible footage of Morgan Freeman going to meet the man everybody told him he should play someday, along with Nelson Mandela's delighted response. Freeman confides about his own nervousness, "OK, you're in the presence of greatness--what do you say?" We also learn that the film's single most powerful scene, a visit to the cell Mandela occupied for so many years, was shot on location; a replica had been built on a sound stage to allow for greater camera movement, but Clint Eastwood wisely nixed that idea. "Matt Damon Plays Rugby" is a seven-minute look at Damon's preparation for his athletic role, including his relationship with real-life counterpart François Pienaar. There's also a 22-minute excerpt from Richard Schickel's feature-length doc, The Eastwood Factor
, that follows Clint around the Warner back lot. It's all appropriate background stuff for fans of Eastwood's calm, dignified film. --Robert Horton