Friday, June 28, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Invictus (2009) ***½

PG-13, 134 min.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Anthony Peckham, John Carlin (book “Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation”)
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge, Patrick Mofokeng, Matt Stern, Julian Lewis Jones, Adjoa Andoh, Marguerite Wheatley, Leleti Khumalo, Patrick Lyster, Shakes Myeko

With Nelson Mandela’s health concerns of late, I can’t help looking back at a movie about the revered leader who has done so much to change the course of racial relations in the world, starting with the very country that took away almost half of his life. It’s amazing more movies haven’t been made about him. It’s even more surprising that the highest profile movie made about him is structured like a classic sports movie that looks at his role in inspiring South Africa’s national rugby squad to win the 1995 World Cup.

Even though Clint Eastwood’s craftily styled movie is about a rugby team, it is hardly about the sport at all. It is about the politics of getting two groups of people that hate each other to support a common cause. The fact that Mandela recognized that something as unimportant as a sports tournament was the perfect vehicle to achieve this goal shows the infinite wisdom of this amazing man. The fact that Eastwood recognized that the easiest way to get a political biographical film about a black man made in Hollywood was to disguise it as a sports film shows the filmmaker’s infinite wisdom.

Some have criticized the movie for focusing too much on “the big game” and not enough on Mandela’s contributions to his country as its president. While it is remarkable that South Africa had a formerly imprisoned by the state black president so much earlier than our country had its first black president and so soon after the end of apartheid, it was Mandela’s understanding of the importance of elements like national sports as a unifying element that made him so effective in bringing such widespread change in such a small amount of time. Perhaps if we held as much pride in our national teams as we do in our isolated area professional teams, we might be able to solve some of the issues that divide us in this country.

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