Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Invictus" (2009) - Movie Review

Clint Eastwood in his films lets the story take immense precedence over his styele of direction. He detaches himself as a director who has great love for the story and characters into skilled surgeon working on how to tell it the way unperturbed. His movies are objective on its people and the passion it takes on. In “Invictus”, it is a battle between the Clint Eastwood who admires the story and the man Nelson Mandela against director Clint Eastwood. The finality of the movie becomes a blankness. The aspiring content goes uninspired and the thrilling sporting moments goes without enthusiasm. With a wonderful performance from Morgan Freeman, Eastwood involves in the film and that disturbs the storytelling.

In the hope restored and an end to the apartheid, South Africa elects Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) as its President. Stepping into tensions starting right from his first day of office, Mandela is wondering how to tackle this cycle of hate and revenge. With crimes roofing up the country and economy on the drains, he goes to a rugby game and watches the country’s team Sprinkbok getting hammered and humiliated. More than that he notices that the blacks are supporting the opposing team. The start of the wrestling of this colour issue begins in the sport. He takes it.

Here is a great man and we know he is great. We also know what makes him great but what makes him human? He lives alone and family seem to be distant. A new bodyguard inadvertently asks about his family which puts him the state of sorrow. They were the path undiscovered. But this is not a biography of him. Matt Damon plays Springbok’s captain Francois Pienaar whom we never understand or learn more about of his personality nor his genuine view points on this change of environment around him. Even his skill or confidence (or growing confidence) over the game or how he inspires others from his short meetings with President are never revealed.

It is one of a classic tactic to weave in one’s sports interest into an anthem for unity and support in a climate very fruitful for destruction. While the Afrikaans love the game, the black see it as a reminder of the atrocity they were put through. Hence it becomes another battle to make the game popular which again is shown in small coaching camps the man makes the Springboks go through. A serious assumption Eastwood takes is that the audience know about the game. Granted that the Americans who breathe American Football does not need a crash course on rugby but the moments of thrill are stolen away. The strategy of the team or the greatness of their agility and courage come across in couple of slow motion shots with wounded face.

The passion of Eastwood in telling the story is really missing or he took it for granted that the audience would give into this true fairy tale. It is a little unbelievable of the fact that the man with experience almost incomparable takes not only a wrong step but genuinely forgets the necessity to treat this as a film to have a momentum and lot of flesh to its story. And with glorious actor as Morgan Freeman becoming Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon who cannot be a better role for the character drown and become a forgetful lines that were never there is discomforting and sad.

As I was thinking through the small pits the film had, the biggest one comes from the score and the abysmal bad choice of placing the cheesy songs in the midst. There is a deliberate attempt on overdoing the actual story with flowers, cakes, candles and the roses to be the merriest and happiest occasions of those dreadful times.

Last year Eastwood provided with two superb films “Changeling” and “Gran Torino”.Both so far apart in times and story but so close to the story telling it took forth. Of those two, “Changeling” went a little unnoticed which on hindsight is a far better film than the impressive film “Gran Torino”.In “Invictus” it becomes a weird rom-com of real life happenings. It dulls down the tough times the man wrestled and conquered and the over involved appreciation of the story erases the emotional actuality of the events.

1 comment:

Bombay Belle said...

This is a powerful yet disappointing review. I beg to differ with almost everything you've written here. I found Invictus to be really inspiring! From Mandela's quotes to the Victorian poem he so loved, "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul" every bit of it was awe-inspiring! It was chilling to see Nelson Mandela's jail cell. I cannot imagine being imprisoned there for 27 years!

More than the World Cup victory, my favorite bit is when the Rugby team goes to teach the little boys how to play. The smiles on their faces was priceless. I loved how much the black kids loved Chester. It was a glimpse of pure innocence in an environment of hostility.

Another thing I liked about the movie was its documentary- aspect. You learn about South Africa's history effortlessly. It isn't forced upon you. I thoroughly enjoyed the non-pc quote about "soccer is gentleman's sport played by hooligans. and Rugby is a hooligan's sport played by gentlemen."

Play by play, Quote after quote the movie touched me. I agree with you about the cheesy boy band music. They could have gotten rid of that.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention the accent, man there were parts of the movie that I truly didn't understand due to Matt Damon's thick accent. I am not sure whether he nailed it or butchered it.