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It’s the opening shot that bests sets the stage for the division lines that crisscross throughout Eastwood’s 32nd directed feature.  It’s a quiet moment in which a recently freed Nelson Mandela and his motorcade drive right down the punctured street that divides the white Rugby players from the black Rugby players.  Each side has their own reaction to Mandela’s release.  Unsentimental, yet convincingly stirring, in its approach on the subject of race relations in South Africa, Eastwood’s Invictus is a powerfully poignant movie that earns much respect in that it is a film that is actually about something other than itself.

Based on John Carlin’s book entitled “Playing the Enemy”, Invictus – which gets its title from English poet William Ernest Henley’s Victorian-era poem – tells the true life story of how Mandela (Morgan Freeman) attempted to reunite his torn and frayed people after the ravings of apartheid through the successes of South Africa’s rugby team, the Springboks, led by Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon).  While the narrative, adapted by South African writer Anthony Peckham, is largely predictable, the spirit of the film is held intact with powerful performances that do not interfere with Eastwood’s quietly and unassuming handling of the picture.  Entering into neither of the personal lives of Mandela and Pienaar, Eastwood keeps his film structured around the consciousness of the South African nation; it is their story and their reaction to these two men that gives the narrative a classic sort of drive to it.  As far as Eastwood is concerned, it’s the Golden Age of Hollywood all over again.

Freeman’s portrayal of Mandela is a testament to the actor’s grace in a role; picking up his old-timer’s gait from Driving Miss Daisy, Freeman presents his version of Mandela as informal and affable and certainly no stranger to struggle.  The past has affected him and positioned him to survive should the rugby gamble implode his new presidency.  Damon is equally electric, having morphed his gained pudginess from The Informant! into solid muscle mass, his resilience in the face of constant defeat makes his performance as the team’s captain more heartening.  Even if we never get to see what these two men think outside of arena of rugby, we certainly bare witness to the respect they have for each other.

Shot by Eastwood’s go-to cinematographer Tom Stern, Invictus absolutely stuns with quiet wonder.  Visually expressive and magnetically subdued, Stern’s camerawork is, at its core, simple expression and in that cause, he and Eastwood are united.  From the action on the field to the lingering pacing of the camera’s motion to the extension of the shadows, Stern is focused on delivering the emotion from within the narrative and spiraling it onto the background of the locale’s palette.

Not setting his gunslinger’s aim on a particular genre this time – not a western, not a war movie, not a martyr film, and not a thriller – Eastwood presents the audience with an old-fashioned film about true events in South Africa’s history that is quite satisfying and stirring.

Component Grades
5 Stars
4 stars
DVD Experience
4.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for Download - May 18
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
: English SDH, French, Spanish
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Official Link: http://www.invictusmovie/dvd/index.html

Quite simply, for the cost of the Blu-Ray, Invictus packs a solid punch.  With BD-Live capability, a digital copy, and bonus DVD of the movie, plus a picture-in-picture feature entitled Vision, Courage, and Honor with Clint Eastwood throughout the movie, this release is what the standard should be for Blu-Ray releases.



  • Mandela Meets Morgan (28.10) – this meeting of Freeman and Mandela as captured on film is interesting in depth and delivery
  • Matt Damon Plays Rugby (6.49) – this featurette explores the process of making Damon into a rugby player and is quite funny and fascinating to watch
  • The Eastwood Factor (22.23) – this is an excerpt from film critic and documentarian Richard Schickel’s latest work about Eastwood’s career

Invictus Music Trailer