Is Invictus a Good Movie?

The movie Invictus is based on the true story of Nelson Mandela's life after being released from prison and his mission to see South Africa win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. The movie was directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, and is based on the book "Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation" by John Carlin. I saw the trailer for the movie and knew it was about Mandela, but I have to admit that I didn't know much about his life after prison and I knew even less about rugby (I originally thought the movie was about soccer). I was a little apprehensive about watching the movie at first, because I'm not a big fan of sports or politics, so I had put it off for a few months after it was released. Eventually, I finally ran out of movies to watch and headed down to my local redbox to rent the DVD and finally give it a try. I was very impressed with the film and much to my surprise, I enjoyed it so much that I decided to write this review on it.

The movie is an extremely accurate depiction of the events in South Africa that led up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup. It's mostly seen through the view of Nelson Mandela, who was the newly elected President of South Africa at the time. However, it also shows things from the perspective of Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African Rugby Team. The movie takes place after Nelson Mandela (played Morgan Freeman) is exonerated and released from prison after 27 years. He had spent the majority of his life in a small cell at Robben Island Prison since 1962, for sabotage and other charges. The charges mostly stemmed from his younger days of rebellion against Apartheid (racial segregation in South Africa). In 1993, he is released and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after for his help in bringing multi-racial elections to South Africa. He is then elected as South Africa's first black President. The movie begins at this point in time, and shows his increasing interest in the country's rugby team, after witnessing them lose a match. The South African rugby team, known as the Springboks, sport the colors of green and gold, which many blacks feel is representative of the old segregated South Africa, since the country was now considered to be the "Rainbow Nation" to represent it's multi-racial population. The team is also viewed as being a symbol of the old apartheid days of South Africa, because the team is 99% white, with only one black player (who plays much better than all of the other players, which is probably why they made an exception for him). Mandela chooses to embrace the team and advocates that other blacks do the same, because he feels that the only way to fix some of the racial tensions in South Africa, is to "break the cycle" and refrain from doing things that will anger the other side. He then asks for a meeting with Francois Pienaar, the white captain of the team, and they have a conversation about inspiration. Francois is genuinely impressed by Mandela's politeness and insight, and attempts to inspire his team in the same way that Nelson inspired him during their brief conversation.

I originally thought the movie was mostly about politics and sports, but after watching it, I realized that it's mainly about inspiration, respect, and forgiveness. Nelson Mandela is an untraditional leader, in that he acknowledges everybody around him, even the "little people". Throughout the movie, his politeness and respect for others is displayed, and while his interest in Rugby may seem personal and petty at first, it proves to be an effective political tool to unite an entire country. The movie is a very powerful and emotionally stirring movie that is both suitable and entertaining for adults and appropriate for children at the same time (though it touches on a few racial issues, but without any profanity or vulgar words). The meaning of the actual latin word Invictus means unconquered or undefeated. Which suits the movie perfectly, as it's not only about an underdog team conquering other teams against all odds, but it's also about Mandela's successful quest to conquer South Africa's apartheid regime and to remain unconquered while in prison. The name of the movie is taken from a poem by William Ernest Henley, an english poet who died in 1902. The poem, which Nelson read while in prison, is about inspiration and strength in the bleakest of circumstances.

The soundtrack for the movie is excellent, as it contains lively African tribal music alongside modern folk songs. The movie is very reminiscent of the Disney film Cool Runnings, because it's an underdog story out of an unlikely place like South Africa, much like Cool Runnings was out of Jamaica. The Jamaican tribal music from Cool Runnings was also very similar to the African tribal music played throughout Invictus, and the inspiration for both teams came from unlikely places. Both movies are feel good movies and true stories that are fairly accurate. But when it comes to Invictus, the old saying "sometimes truth is stranger than fiction" applies. If I didn't know the events in the movie were true, I would have had a hard time believing it could ever happen in real life.

I haven't heard many people talking about this movie, so I think it's very underrated and many people may have passed up on it like me, because of the political and sports aspects of it. All in all, I give Invictus a 10 out of 10. It's one of the most enjoyable movies I've watched in 2010, and it's a great movie for people of all ages. Though I must admit, while it does have some sports action, it may not be too exciting for some kids and pre-teens since it's mostly about a storyline and positive message and not so much about action scenes. It's mostly a historically based movie that offers a very detailed look at Nelson Mandela, South Africa, and Rugby. For people who know very little about these things like I did, it can be very educational and fun at the same time. So if you have a chance to rent this movie or download it and you enjoy those types of movies, you should definitely give it a chance. So is Invictus a good movie and worth watching? You bet it is.





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