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Invictus

Invictus

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

CLINT Eastwood may be about to turn 80 later this year but he remains one of the most important filmmakers working today.

Where many veteran stars struggle to find consistently good work that’s worthy of their talent or comparable with the hits that helped to make them, Eastwood just seems to continue putting out one classic after another – whether in front of or behind the camera.

Invictus, his latest, is another excellent movie to add to an ever-growing CV of impressive achievements in film.

It may not rate among his very best, but it’s an inspirational tale that takes an important chapter in South African [and world] history and gives it the respect and gravitas it deserves.

The incident in question centres around Nelson Mandela’s attempts to rebuild and unify his broken country by urging his countrymen to get behind the South African Springbok rugby team during the 1995 World Cup.

Morgan Freeman stars as Mandela, while Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar… the captain charged with leading his players to an against-the-odds victory.

Eastwood, for his part, adds plenty of layering into the movie, from the classic sporting underdog element that Hollywood so loves to the political brinkmanship that helped Mandela turn a sporting event into his country’s salvation.

He also presents it as an extremely human tale… focusing not just on Mandela and Pienaar, but also the bodyguards in Mandela’s employment and the house-maid in Pienaar’s family.

There is artistic licence and some of the scenes are shamelessly sentimental. The soundtrack, too, is needlessly slushy and prone to laughably bad interludes.

But in the main this is stirring triumph-of-the-spirit stuff that is worthy but seldom dull.

Freeman does a credible job as Mandela, imbuing the politician with the dignity, power and charisma he warrants, but clearly struggling with the accent at all times. He is, nevertheless, an engaging presence.

Damon, though, excels as Pienaar, delivering a near-flawless accent to match the sporting physique required to convince as a rugby playing hero.

There’s strong support, too, while Eastwood’s use of location – offsetting the lavish corridors of power with the poverty of South African slums – all adds to the flavour of authenticity surrounding the project.

A sequence on Robben Island, meanwhile, which affords not only Pienaar but viewers the chance to see the appalling conditions that Mandela was forced to endure for so many years underlines the measure of the man’s power of forgiveness.

Invictus is therefore an intimate tale of healing and forgiveness, as well as sporting and political achievement, that unfolds on a grand scale.

It is another masterful piece of work from Eastwood.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 133mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 14, 2010