Invictus is a film from 2009 directed by Clint Eastwood. It is based on the true story of Nelson Mandela, newly elected President of South Africa, who takes an interest in the nation’s rugby team, encouraging them to win the Rugby World Cup in 1995. It is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.
President Mandela (Morgan Freeman) is a wise leader, seeking to promote reconciliation and forgiveness to heal his country. He asks staff of the former leader to stay on and work with him. He seeks to mirror unity and cooperation amongst his staff first and foremost as an example of how the country should proceed.
Mandela sees an opportunity in the sport of rugby to further unify the citizens of South Africa. He summons Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to meet with him. Francois is understandably impressed with Mandela and his quiet, firm leadership. As Captain of the Rugby team, Francois takes on the task of nurturing a winning team.
This is a true story, and we know who won the World Cup in 1995. Mandela learns about rugby, a sport described as, “ . . . a hooligans game played by gentlemen.” I am not much of a sports enthusiast, at least for those that are watched in a stadium or obsessively on TV. I found rugby to be a brutal game, even worse than football. There are no helmets, no protective gear to shield the men from what is very much a contact sport.
I think men would enjoy this film. Women, rent it for your spouse or boyfriend and watch it with him. He’ll like the sports scenes while you will like the progression of the action as the team improves, leading up to the final game against the Maoris of New Zealand.
I have heard the Maoris described as fierce warriors and these seasoned rugby players certainly looked the part. They were a formidable opponent to the South African team who had just recently experienced a winning streak.
I would say that Invictus is not a great film, but just a good one, for the only reason that it shows what Mandela strove to do in order to build unity among their citizens. What I found most interesting was how the film showed snippets of Mandela’s life and how he struggled with family issues, overwork, and the running of the government to the point of exhaustion.
I also found myself, perhaps not surprisingly, thinking of a certain leader in the U.S. and how he could use some lessons from Nelson Mandela and the type of leader he was. Where slavery was part of history, much healing needs to happen. It is not helpful when a leader shows bigotry and hatred towards the citizens he is elected to serve. What will happen? I don’t presume to know. But I find myself wanting to know more about South Africa as a result of this film.
Have you seen Invictus and what did you think of the film?