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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational
Turning a story with a sports theme into a good movie is often a challenge. Too often, the viewer is left with clichés. This is not the case with "Invictus". Clint Eastwood as director and producer has crafted a wonderful and moving tale. It deserves a wide audience.

The sport of Rugby Union is little known in America but the use of big name stars...
Published on January 25, 2010 by Andrew Desmond

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars--The Power of Sports
Clint Eastwood's latest film may be set against the backdrop of a post apartheid South Africa, but above all else it is a testament to the power of sports to bring people together and provide something to believe in. In tis sense, it is one of the director's simplest works to date. But that doesn't mean that it isn't a stirring film that offers much to think about...
Published on July 15, 2010 by B. Martin


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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, January 25, 2010
By 
Andrew Desmond (Neutral Bay, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Invictus (DVD)
Turning a story with a sports theme into a good movie is often a challenge. Too often, the viewer is left with clichés. This is not the case with "Invictus". Clint Eastwood as director and producer has crafted a wonderful and moving tale. It deserves a wide audience.

The sport of Rugby Union is little known in America but the use of big name stars such as Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon playing the South African captain Francois Pienaar works well. They were both truly convincing. Damon in particular seemed to master the Afrikaans accent.

"Invictus" is touching. I frequently found myself almost moved to tears. The story of how Mandela was able to look beyond simple revenge and move forward in the spirit of reconciliation was uplifting. If only other nations could follow this example. Mandela had much to be bitter about but proved that he was a bigger man. In this way, he further condemned apartheid to the dustbin of history where it belongs.

Many people will know the story of the 1995 World Cup. South Africa as the host nation rose from the ranks of relative easy beats to become champions. However, in Clint Eastwood's hands we are provided with more than a simple tale of underdog victory. This is a very tired story. Instead, Eastwood homes in on both the bigger picture and the touching interplay between Mandela and Pienaar. Eastwood is getting better with age. When most men are in retirement at his age, he continues to dazzle. He is an inspiration himself.

Go see this film. Your effort will be rewarded.
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61 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The agony and the ecstacy, January 1, 2010
'Invictus' is a Latin term meaning invincible, or unconquerable. It is also the title of an important poem, one which Nelson Mandela found inspiring during his long walk to victory, penned in the 1800s of the same title, which includes these famous words:

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Mandela faced perhaps even more formidable challenges upon becoming the first post-Apartheid president of South Africa than he had trying to end Apartheid -- how does one manage this kind of change, this kind of forgiveness, this kind of reconciliation? Perhaps the most important scene in the film for me was the one in which Mandela discusses with Francois Pienaar, the South African rugby team's captain, what kind of leadership philosophy one needs to have, particularly when faced with a seemingly hopeless task that most have written off as unobtainable. Leadership by example is important here; courage in the face of adversity and perseverance even as all appear negative is also key.

Mandela is played admirably by Morgan Freeman; Freeman has been a friend to Mandela for many years, and even so found the role daunting. How does one portray a living legend? Francois Pienaar is played by Matt Damon; Damon recounts in press information for the film his meeting with Pienaar, and how Pienaar, an actual rugby player, is so much larger physically than Damon (who, despite his athletic build, is of a more average size). Clint Eastwood, now a master film maker, was able through his camera work to disguise this fact -- rugby players in general are larger than average!

The rugby scenes are very well done; I saw this film with an audience where most had never been exposed to rugby before, but they had no problem figuring out the basic pattern of play, and so problems with rules and strategies did not become a hindrance. The political scenes, which could also have the potential of descending into arcana that would lose a non-South African audience, were also well crafted to show important issues without delving into the minutiae of politics that end up being distracting. The on-field and off-field struggles are juxtaposed, and the film shows how the rugby World Cup helped to bring the divided nation together -- of course, this would be to simplify history far too much, but it was an important step.

The victory of the Springboks, with Mandela handing the victory cup to Pienaar, is considered by many to be one of the greatest moments in sports history (the BBC testifies to this, among others).

Overall, this is a feel-good film that has important historical and social themes. The cell on Robben Island, where Mandela spent more than half of his nearly three-decade political imprisonment, was actually used in the film -- an important element that helps show the importance of Mandela's actions, and the power of how what might have been quite legitimate hatred and desire for vengeance had become an even more powerful drive for unity and reconciliation.

This is an important film, and worthy of viewing and discussion. It qualifies as one of the most significant South African films, also, as much of the cast are from South Africa and much of the filming was done at or near the actual venues of this taken-from-true-life film.

Ah, if only I were 20 years younger, I'd be out on the rugby pitch tomorrow!
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102 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reconciliation on the Field, December 15, 2009
Rugby has never been well publicized in the US. Soccer, although not a ranking sport, receives far more publicity. Therefore, it was knowledge-expanding and stirring to observe the underdog South Africa team's road to a 1995 Rugby cup victory.

The accompanying plot, of course, was the work of Nelson Mandela in using this victory and its team preparation to try to unify South Africa. From our own trip in 1994, when the country was just opening up, we had an idea that there was much unrest and volatility. The nation was still racially divided, although the Apartheid enforced by a distinct white minority had just ended.

Mandela has never received credit for the job he did in keeping South Africa's peace, while trying to encourage foreign investment. He saw that merely seizing white-owned businesses and infrastructure would only be looting of a fixed amount of wealth. No growth could result from the types of activities that were occurring in Zimbabwe and Mozambique, where white minorities had been ousted from power.

As the new President of South Africa, representing an overwhelming black majority, Mandela took a long term view of what was needed. He alienated a considerable portion of his own party to implement his program of racial reconciliation.

The movie provides an exceptional, well integrated blend of sports and far-seeing political strategy.

Some critics have heaped praise on Invictus, claiming that this represents director Clint Eastwood's work "at the top of his game." Other critics have carped about what they see as "trite" dialog. Perhaps if Mandela had been ranting against his racist predecessors and, even more, against the US, they would have enjoyed the dialog more. One critic claimed that too much artistic license was taken in portraying actual events of Mandela's interaction with the rugby team and its captain. These objections seem trivial.

Others have predicted that Morgan Freeman, in his role of Mandela, is a strong Oscar candidate. I hope that Invictus receives a potful of other rewards as well.

With all the negative, tragic outcomes of recent history and, of course, today's events, it was refreshing and stirring to see the rugby success of the South Africa team. More to the point, it represented a hopeful outcome for the nation as a whole.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eastwood shoots. Eastwood scores., December 19, 2009
During his 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela regularly turned to a poem Called Invictus, and found profound inspiration.

During his time as President he continued to turn to this poem, and knowing it by heart, wrote it out long hand, and to the Captain of the Sprinboks passed it, who found profound inspiration.

During my life, I found profound inspiration in Nelson Mandela, and if a man can live in the unfair divided regime called apartheid, can spend so much time in prison, and emerge wise instead of rancorous, and can become president of a nation so divided, it raises the bar of human possibility, and inspires us to do better. If Mandela can solve the unsolvable problems of South Africa, if the Berlin Wall can fall, then cannot my own country's problem be solved, could there be peace in Nothern Ireland. All of these things which once seemed impossible have come to pass.

And Invictus the movie invites us to see Mandela in elegant action, uniting a divided nation, averting civil unrest and civil war, reviving the sport of apartheid (rugby), saving the Springboks from being disbanded, and playing a pivotal role in inspiring their triumphs.

Clint and Morgan, between them have won numerous Academy Awards on their previous collaborations. Morgan Freeman won best Supporting Actor for Million Dollar Baby playing Clint's sidekick, and played Clint's sidekick in Unforgiven.

Morgan Freeman impresses as Mandela, who he knows personally, and does an outstanding job. As much if not more is conveyed through a nod, a gesture and a facial expression than through words. Matt Damon impresses as the Rugby Captain. Having played rugby myself, he totally convinces in his body language and movement as a rugby player.

Clint Eastwood does an impressive job outside his normal territory and familiar genre, making the rugby scenes very true to life. Usually the cameras are off field, here they are up close and personal in the thick of the action.

My one critique of the movie is that it lacks something Hollywood likes, namely the conflict, drama, and the hubris of the characters.

In Changeling for example, Christine Collins has to overcome great adversity, and transform from a mom mourning her missing child to an activist, even being committed to a psychiatric hospital because she disagreed with the police captain.

In Invictus, the great Nelson Mandela adversity has already happened before the events of this movie happen, so the great dramas of his life remain unexplored, and the drama of his wife Winnie being charged with murder also remains unexplored. A quality movie made about all that, would surely win many awards.

Invictus remains a great movie, it's funny sometimes, it's gripping, it's inpiring, it's even exciting. Although it's Morgan Freeman's movie, it's Eastwood's humor that's pervasive. It's a slice of Mandela, but not the whole cake. I fully expect Morgan Freeman will get nominated for this performance, and may even win. I would not be surprised if Eastwood, overlooked last year for his masterpiece Gran Torino (Full-Screen Edition), gets a nod this time as Best Director.

Trivia. Watch out for the other Eastwoods, Kyle scores the music. Scott, scores the winning points, and plays No. 10 for the Springboks. Invictus means, unconquerable, invincible. I hope this was helpful to you.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forgiveness liberates the soul, May 21, 2010
By 
This review is from: Invictus (DVD)
What a powerful story, a remarkable leader, and incredible direction here. Invictus is the true story of Nelson Mandela and the '95 Rugby World Cup.

Eastwood easily could have pulled on the emotional strings and presented the harsh realities of the apartheid in South Africa. He also could have appealed to any impatient movie watchers by inserting graphic details of the grueling years of captivity Mandela endured. But instead this story begins immediately after he was released from prison and is elected president. He has the daunting task of rebuilding the country after the fall of apartheid. Could sports really help a country unite?

The acting here is impeccable. Morgan Freeman has turned in tons of great performances, but never has he felt more perfect for a role. Plus Matt Damon did great with his accent and mannerisms of the team captain.

I was very impressed with the actions and words of Nelson Mandela. He reminded me of Mahatma Gandhi. Despite his lengthy imprisonment and his country's animosity that lingered from the past, he refused to act out of hatred.

"THIS IS NO TIME FOR PETTY REVENGE"

This film never gets too political. It focuses more on human relationships and the country's underdog rugby team. Invictus is an extraordinary true story about the power of the human spirit. A movie not to be missed
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invictus, March 9, 2010
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This review is from: Invictus (DVD)
I am a South AFrican and was outside the stadium when the final game in the movie was played. This was a real event. Only someone who was there can tell you the emotional impact of that game and what Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar (captain of the Springbok rugby team) achieved. For several hours after that game there was not a single crime in South Africa. The whole country united as one to spur our team on. I, unfortunately, did not attend the actual game but I was outside that stadium and the fellowship and goodwill that emanated from it had to be experienced. I went to see the movie with my youngest daughter here in the USA. She was only 8 years old at the time of that game. She could well recall the impact of the emotion and, for me, it was a pleasure moment relived. The movie did it justice and the two actors performed very well in their roles as two South Africans. I loved the movie and definitely want to see it again. Always a South African. We are a nation of such spirit.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars brush up on your rugby and then see Invictus..., December 14, 2009
Before you buy the movie tickets and order your popcorn, be sure to take about five minutes or so and brush up on the game of rugby. Then head for the theatre door, grab a seat and watch Morgan Freeman portray South Africa president Nelson Mandela in Clint Eastwood's latest gem,Invictus. In 1995, Mandela used the sport of rugby to bring a nation together, and now, Freeman, in 2009, uses his talent as an actor to show the world on the silver screen how one man's courage and fortitude brought together a nation of 43 million. As for a quick-reference guide on rugby, it is football without pads and it is rough. Forty-minute halves and no timeouts. No forward passing...and if you have a kicker who can boot the ball a long way,that will help. Field goals are worth three points, extra points are two, and if you can battle your way across the goal line it is worth five points. There you go. Of course, there's a few more rules (but not many), but that's enough to make you a little more knowledgeable than the fella next to you who just asked his friend next to him,"What is the score?"
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars--The Power of Sports, July 15, 2010
This review is from: Invictus (DVD)
Clint Eastwood's latest film may be set against the backdrop of a post apartheid South Africa, but above all else it is a testament to the power of sports to bring people together and provide something to believe in. In tis sense, it is one of the director's simplest works to date. But that doesn't mean that it isn't a stirring film that offers much to think about.

Invictus follows Nelson Mandella after his election as South Africa's president at the end of apartheid and his struggle to unite his country. He finds his opportunity with the nation's rugy team; a group of mostly white players that have been exhibiting poor play and are on the verge of being disbanded by the nation's non-white majority who view them as a reminder of the oppression that they endured for nearly 50 years. Mandella speaks up for the maligned group suggesting that keeping them intact would serve as a gesture of peace and forgiveness to the country's white minority who have lost their power and may fear reprisal.

Mandella also reaches out to the captain of the rugby team (a beefed up Matt Damon) and encourages him to inspire his teammates to be more than they think are capable of. Without saying so, he asks the team to win the 1995 world cup. His hope is that his racially divided nation will come together to support a team that represents them all, not just the white minority.

And so the movie follows the team as they undertake their overwhelming task of winning the world cup. They also take on the role of ambassadors to the angry and povery stricken citizens by traveling to the slums and teaching the game to children. Since the story that the movie is based on is true, there is no need to bring cheap sentiment or melodramatic sub plots into the picutre. Eastwood simply lets the story tell itself with predictable yet uplifting results.

The performances are strong everywhere. Morgan Freeman is the epitome of grace under pressure as Mandella and Matt Damon nicely captures the mixed emotions of a man who is put in the difficult position of inspiring his teammantes and serving as a bridge between the nation's racial divide. It is naive, of course, to believe that the team's improbable run and victory solved the nation's problems, or that Mandella was as infalible and saintly as he is portrayed here. But it is easy to believe that for a brief time, a nation stood together and supported their rag-tag rugby team as they made everyone forget about the ever present problems that were continuing to rip them apart. That is the ultimate power of sports; to provide something to believe in, even if for a brief period of time. That is ultimately what Invictus accomplishes.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So moved that I got the book Playing the Enemy, July 3, 2010
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This review is from: Invictus (DVD)
Leaving the movie description to other more able reviewers, I won't repeat anything. Let me just say I am seeing it for about the fifth or sixth time and my eyes still well with tears of emotion when I see that troubled nation magically changing by the sheer will of the great statesman Nelson Mandela. He managed to draw all peoples together and change the flag and the nation to multi-color, and he managed to win the Springboks over before they won the 1995 World Cup. If I could be granted a wish to have been anywhere in the past 20 years, it would be attending that great game in Ellis Stadium in Johannesburg, the last bastion of Afrikanerdom, just to watch that game, the mighty Springboks versus the feared New Zealand All-Blacks (so named after the color of their uniforms). I'd see the old Boer "bitter-ender" descendants of hard-line Afrikaner voortrekkers playing rugby and fathers and sons of apartheid hugging and being hugged by peoples of all colors and persuasions during and after the game when their countrymen won the World Cup. I'd hear people of all tribes, colors, and religions cheering and shouting Mandela's name and see that game. I'd hear alack, white, and every color of men, women, and children sing "Nkosi Sikelele' iAfrica", the cherished song of black freedom. The film is true to life by director Clint Eastwood. But oh to be in old J'burg just to see the Springboks win the World Cup Rugby and the great president Mandela in his Springbok jersey and cap, smiling from ear to ear, as he presented the World Cup to the Captain of the Springboks, which by his sheer force of will he made the whole country's team, no longer exclusive to Afrikaners.

Immediately after seeing this movie I googled Francois Pienaar and got him on You-Tube talking to and about Mandela and ended up buying the book "Playing the Enemy", by John Carlin, which moved me even more. It reassured me of the authenticity of the film. The 'Boks winning that day was the crowning moment for South Africa not just in sporting events but the culmination and beginning of Mandela's "One Team, One Country" idea which both shocked, surprised, and pleased all citizens (mostly themselves) by their own reactions.

President Nelson Mandela is played most ably by Morgan Freeman,and in voice, accent, and and gesture--he is authentically Mandela). Francois Pienaar, the Afrikaans Captain of the Springboks is played by Matt Damon (of Bourne fame) with a very authentic Afrikaans accent and a fierce rugby-playing skill, though only 5'11" not 6'4" is very believable and played a strong Captain. He was big in soul and a convincing Captain and you could see Damon was playing great rugby. I'am sure the real Pienaar was pleased. The first meeting between Pienaar and Mandela, like everything in the film, is based on fact. I had no inkling that these incidents had ever occurred. How I managed to miss this is beyond someone who has been following South African politics and reading all she could since the mid-sixties. But this film is about more than a game, it is the magic of Mandela and his shrewd and wise perception that sports can be a uniting force, and he played it for all it was worth, and the beginning of a great, united South Africa came to be, and at a very pivotal point in South Africa's history.

Of course there is much more than the Springboks game involved in this film. As in real life, there was more to Mandela's presidency ending apartheid, and his most herculean task was to draw all peoples together in a spirit of forgiveness, redemption, and the Afrikaner Springboks represented all Afrikaners in this effort, and that was key in succeeding. Mandela believes that sometimes in order to create a new nation people have to work with people they don't like, or even trust!

In the film, Mandela gives a poem to the Springbok Captain. "Invictus", the famous poem by William Ernest Henley and though it's not mentioned in Mandela's own autobiography or even in the book "Playing the Enemy," Eastwood takes a liberty by making it Mandela's comfort and strength while in prison. It may well have been so, as it is for anyone who lives under such horrible conditions.

Please, please, if you like the film, buy the book on Amazon, as well. It is even better to read and savor. I will be reviewing the book as well.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A story too large for the telling, but told well anyway, December 13, 2009
By 
Muzzlehatch (the walls of Gormenghast) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
How can one not have huge expectations going into INVICTUS - the story of Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) using the Rugby World Cup of 1995 as a rallying point to help unify his troubled post-apartheid country, and forming a bond with the young captain of the traditionally-named (and hated by many blacks) Springboks, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon)? Especially when it's directed by Clint Eastwood, whose two previous collaborations with Freeman won Best Picture and Director Oscars for Clint, with Freeman winning a Best Supporting Actor prize for MILLION DOLLAR BABY. And being a huge Clint Eastwood fan who has seen everything he's directed or starred in....well, let's just say there are few films this year that I was looking forward to more.

Of course massive expectations - however impossible to avoid - are frequently going to engender disappointment, and such is the case here to some extent - though there is more to like than not overall. Freeman is just as great as I expected him to be - no, he doesn't sound exactly like Mandela, but he gets the cadences and speech patterns down pretty well, the charm and the moments of boyish impishness, and especially the sense of a troubled, lonely inner life that he has managed through supreme will to tame and use to his advantage. This Mandela is a man determined to unite a country almost through sheer will, a man willing to be autocratic and domineering when he feels there is no other way, and a man who knows that winning over his enemies is just as important as keeping his friends.

Matt Damon's Francois Pienaar is something of a cypher, a seemingly apolitical man interested in little beyond rugby, a leader himself but one who seemingly has even less chance of pulling his team from the brink of disaster than Mandela has of pulling his country up. What Pienaar needs is confidence and spirit - something the president has in abundance; and what Mandela needs is a rallying point that both blacks and whites can get behind; obviously, in true sports-movie manner, they find each other and clearly couldn't succeed without both putting forth every effort.

It's not the sports cliches that are really the problem here; after all, this is based on a true story, South Africa really WAS a giant underdog to win the World Cup, and they really did prevail against all odds. And it's not Freeman or Damon, or any of the other fine actors; rather it's the shorthand that Eastwood and screenwriter Anthony Peckham use to show the country coming together which lacks substance and feels in the end the most cliched. The Pienaars have a black maid who keeps quiet through most of the film, but finally gets her moments; the president's bodyguard staff is a mix of blacks and whites who initially distrust and dislike each other, and come to grudgingly respect each other, and so on. Meanwhile little of the changing nature of the South African people in general is seen over the 5-year timespan of the film, and little of the attitudes of Pienaar's team, the Springboks, to becoming a symbol as much as a rugby team.

Still the emotional power of the story does come through, in particular through the deep inner life that Freeman's Mandela manages to convey, a wisdom that understands something about how much more important reconciliation and forward-thinking is than revenge and recriminations. I can't take credit for this thought, but I will mention that it's interesting how this film, like so much of Eastwood's past work is in a sense focused on revenge; except that in this case, revenge is seen as unambiguously wrong by the protaganist (and by extension, we the audience) and not to be applied. The demons are exorcised, and we get a truly positive and life-affirming ending - one of the few in the director's entire filmography. Sure, we all know that South Africa isn't a paradise now, and still has a great many problems; but the promise of someone like Mandela is I think worth holding forth still - even if it is more than a little romantacized. The fact that 'the whole story' is not altogether well-articulated isn't entirely Clint's fault or the other participants; this is too large a story to be told in one film, one way, and if Eastwood wasn't fully up to the task, his heart was certainly in the project, and I think what he did get right was well worth doing, and seeing.
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Invictus by Clint Eastwood (DVD - 2010)
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