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December 26, 2009

Invictus – A Review

Tags: all-blacks, clint eastwood, haka, invictus, matt damon, morgan freeman, new zealand, rugby, south africa

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

- “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

This is the poem at the center of the new Clint Eastwood-directed film, “Invictus.”

The plot centers around the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and how South African President Nelson Mandela looked to the team to unify a nation still fractured from the Apartheid era.

While I am not a film reviewer, nor do I play one on TV, this was a terrific movie.

Freeman, Eastwood and Damon (via Flickr:

It’s based on a true story, so there isn’t much I could do to spoil the plot, especially since the story is fairly paint-by-numbers.

However, that is where Eastwood’s brilliant direction and the superior performance of Morgan Freeman take us on a journey.  Matt Damon plays the captain of the rugby team, raised in a family that, typical of the time and place, has very racist tendancies.

Damon and Freeman deliver superstar performances, but the magic of the movie is viewing the rise of Mandela and the Rugby team through the eyes of the nation.  Specifically, a little boy and Mandela’s mixed-race security team, captivate, as their subplots serve as a microcosm for the greater South Africa.

I think the best thing I can say about the movie is that it has made me very curious about the truth behind the Hollywood interpretation.  If even half of Mandela’s actions in the movie are steeped in truth, I would gain even MORE respect for him.  The way he guides his nation through humanity and decency, especially when vengeance and domination would have been entirely justified, is beyond incredible.  Definitely worth seeing…and I’m going to go search for the book it’s based on right now!

Also, in the biggest geek-out moment of the movie, before the South African team plays the New Zealand All-Blacks, we get to see a Haka, the ancient Maori tribal war dance the All-Blacks use to intimidate opponents before matches!  Take a look at what one looks like:


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