Invictus Movie Review

Oscar winning director Clint Eastwood travels to racially charged South Africa for his latest film, Invictus. The film follows former South African president Nelson Mandela as he attempts to unite the country with the help of their national rugby team. Eastwood uses the acting talents of Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon to bring Mandela and rugby player Francois Pienaar’s journey to life. Invictus has good intentions but comes across as a feature length infomercial on tolerance, which in the end kills its message.

The Players:

  • Director: Clint Eastwood
  • Writer: Anthony Peckham, John Carlin (book)
  • Cast: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge, Patrick Mofokeng, Matt Stern, Adjoa Andoh, Marguerite Wheatley

The Plot:

Invictus takes place in the mid-nineties when Nelson Mandela is settling into his position as the president of South Africa. His first order of business is to break down the racial barriers that were previously enforced by the apartheid system of government, and he plans on using the sport of rugby to do it. He enlists the help of Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African Springboks, in hopes that he can take the team to the World Cup Championship. He believes that every citizen no matter their race, can learn to coexist through their love of the game.

The Good:

  • Matt Damon: Surprisingly, Damon didn’t come off as bad as some people might think. His accent was on point and physically he looked the part. You can tell that he went through extensive training for his role, and it paid off tenfold.
  • Tony Kgoroge: This little known actor starred as the head of Mandela’s security, and held some of the most engaging scenes in the film. We see him struggle with the changes that are implemented throughout the course of the story and his character arc is one of the most fascinating to watch.
  • Cinematography: The camera shots used to show the landscape of South Africa are beautiful. From the very first scene of the film there’s a constant conflict between the images of the wealthy part of the country in opposition to the inner city slums.

The Bad:

  • Morgan Freeman: Freeman is a talented actor but his performance was lacking. Within the first two scenes his South African accent began to drop, and he came across as stoic and untouchable. In the film they emphasize how down to earth Mandela is but he comes across as “godlike,” which keeps you from relating to him on a human level. You forget that he’s a real man, because he’s written like a fictional character.
  • Screenplay: Some movies that are based on actual events manage to keep you on the edge of your seat even though you know the outcome. Invictus does not pull that off. From the very first time the rugby team steps on the field you know their going to be world champions by the time the film’s over. There isn’t a proper build up for the audience, which cheats you out of any type of pay off.
  • Editing: During that last act of the film, there are some jarring editing choices that take you out of the moment. There’s nothing wrong with establishing shots, but you don’t have to use them repeatedly ad nauseum. Without giving too much away, don’t expect many consistent shots of the final game because it gets chopped to pieces.


Invictus has every intention of being an inspirational story about tolerance and progress but comes off as over the top. The lack of subtlety hinders the story and takes away from the overall theme. Invictus isn’t the best Clint Eastwood film, but it definitely isn’t the worst either. This is a movie that you’d have to be in the mood see, otherwise you’ll just leave the theater annoyed.

Invictus debuts in theaters nationwide on December 11, 2009

Rating: 6/10


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