Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Clint Eastwood has played many different roles. He started out in westerns, arguably his most famous role in this genre being his role of Inspector Harry Callahan in 1971's "Dirty Harry". He's done comedic roles, such as his role as astronaut Frank Corvin in 2000's "Space Cowboys", a film in which he both starred and directed. He's even done a musical, 1969's "Paint Your Wagon". Of late, he has been known more for his work behind the camera. He has been at the helm of some very excellent award winning films, such as "Million Dollar Baby" and "Mystic River". He has also directed several great actors to academy award wins, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank for their roles in "Million Dollar Baby" and Sean Penn and Tim Robbins for their roles in "Mystic River". His latest film, "Invictus", is a story about an apartheid ravaged South Africa in the early 1990s. More so, it's a story about South Africa's rugby team and their quest to win the sport's highest honor. Along the way, they gain the support of many, but most prominently, the country's president, Nelson Mandela.

Morgan Freeman plays the role of Mandela, with stunning accuracy. It's no wonder that Eastwood often calls upon him. Matt Damon plays the role of rugby captain Francois Pienaar, who takes a team that is, at first, thought of as a joke, to eventually becoming a serious contender for the prestigious world cup. Mandela, having just been released after serving nearly thirty years in prison, befriends the young rugby captain, and while attending to his commitments as president, he also becomes committed to the team and their cause. Francois and president Mandela, in a poignant scene in the film share a spot of tea. They share conversation and talk politics. Eventually, the conversation turns more inspiring, more specifically, the president asks Francois how he has inspired his team. His answer is simple. Music. After their meeting, Mandela writes down an inspiring poem entitled "Invictus". Later in the film, we discover that this poem was Mandela's inspiration while he spent all those years in a prison cell, one barely long enough to stand in with outstreched arms.

While the acting, directing and cinematography were excellent, the story seemed a little lacking. Like many sports themed films, this film is inspiring, undoubtedly, the underlying feature of this film. The scenery in and around South Africa is gorgeous. Eastwood certainly has a talented eye. Some of the dialogue gets lost among the thick language and accents of the South African actors. Naturally, the actors were excellent. As I mentioned earlier, Freeman's role as Mandela was excellent. He's an actor who does not merely impersonate his subjects. He becomes completely entrenched with them. Matt Damon is excellent as well. He speaks seemlessly with a South African accent. However, I can't get past Damon's role as the young Bean Town thug in "Good Will Hunting". He's an excellent actor, no doubt about that, but because of his roles in that film and "The Departed", I couldn't quite wrap my head around Damon being cast in this role.

This was a good film, and while most of it was enjoyable, there was definitely a feeling of disappointment. I can't help but get caught up in the hype of some films. This was no exception. The film was highly tauted and praised. Don't expect to go into this film and watch greatness. It was a good film, not great.

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