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June 11, 2010
Invictus a masterful blend of sport, psychology, and civil rights
By CNA Staff

By CNA Staff

Older children, teens and adults: Morally Acceptable: Excellent Crafstmanship

The time has long passed since Invictus premiered on the silver screen. The Oscars and Golden Globes are over, and the movie is making the rounds as a rental. And while I can’t tell you if the movie was an amazing experience on the big screen – I didn’t see it in theaters – I can tell you that this is the sort of movie you will want to own and watch again and again.

On the surface, Invictus is another one of those inspiring stories about people who overcome social injustices combined with one of those sports movies about a losing team that somehow pulls it together and wins the championship. However, though the viewer can choose to leave it at that, there is more to be gained by exploring Clint Eastwood’s well-crafted film.

It is undeniable – there is something about sports that bring people together who have nothing in common in the pursuit of something greater than themselves. This does not apply to athletes alone. And in this case, though it may seem far-fetched, it pulls together the nation of South Africa.

Perhaps part of what is fascinating about the film is that it takes the viewer to a place few Americans think about. While rugby isn’t a widely popular sport in the continental 48, most people can understand the concept of the World Cup. However, even with the popularity of Nelson Mandela, most people, especially the younger generation, don’t know much about Apartheid or South Africa. Without requiring a large investment in an individual character, Invictus takes the viewer to another world and shows them the value of the human lives who inhabit that world. 

South Africa is unique in the fact that a white minorty dominated and suppressed the black majority on a national scale for an extended period of time. It is also unique in how quickly a black president, a man who was once jailed and considered a terrorist, was elected to the presidency. But it is not unique, perhaps, in how its diverse populations united behind a sports team. What makes Invictus masterful is how it comines these three elements into a captivating film.

Morgan Freeman does a stellar job playing Nelson Mandela. Most people like to imagine actors and political leaders as forever drinking from the fountains of youth and strength. Freeman’s Mandela is a careworn man, a man slowing down but whose mind is as sharp as ever. His portrayal of the South African Criminal and internationally beloved human rights activist is truly meritorious and personable.

Matt Damon’s character, François Pienaar, seems rather flat in comparison. While Damon may be capable of a wide range of roles, being captain of a South African rugby team isn’t his best fit. The dialogue afforded his character is also both limited and limiting. His family is cast with the typical Afrikaner mindset, resentful and hateful of the black Africans. And though he is big enough to realize that his team, and their World Cup win, represented all of South Africa, not just the whites in the stadium, his interactions with his family convey neither bigotry nor growth. One does not know whether Pienaar agrees with the racism of his father, nor whether he shares the knowledge he gains about cooperation with his family.

The film features the usual crude and crass language found in a male dominated sport, or really the locker room or playing field of any sports. There are a few sexual innuendos, and some non-sports related violence. The more mature teen would enjoy this movie and take something from it. Most adults, especially those who like learning about other cultures and recent history would thoroughly enjoy this movie.

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