For most directors, when they reach their ninth decade on Earth, theyve either retired or theyre past their prime, but Clint Eastwood has undoubtedly reached new heights as a filmmaker in the past couple of decades. He shows no signs of slowing down, and its a good job too, as his films are always a treat.
Invictus is no exception, which takes what is essentially a fairly generic story, but thanks to a good script, some expert filmmaking and the setting, it seems fresh and captivating. Set in the days after apartheid when Nelson Mandela came to power in South Africa, the new President has to face the fact that his country is still very much divided. Many black South Africans want to rid the country of the vestiges of what they see as the symbols of white oppression, which include the name and colours of the countrys rugby team.
However Nelson feels that the future of South Africa as a growing nation can only be built by allowing everyone to feel included and as if theyre one nation, no matter what colour they are, especially as much of the economic power and infrastructure of the country is still in white hands. Mandela realises that a unique opportunity is coming up, as the Rugby World Cup is being held in South Africa, and that if the black population can be drawn into what up until then has been seen a loathed whites only game, it could truly help unite the country. Unfortunately the Springboks are going through a bad patch and have pretty much been written off.
Nelson decides to try and enlist the help of rugby captain Francois Pienaar to try and get him to help use the event to bring the country together. However with some of the team still resistant to the new ideas and the populace divided, can the team win through?
It is a pretty typical sports underdog story, but on top of that is built a fascinating tale of a specific moment in history and the pressures and issues that came with it. Its a tale of hope that transcends whether a team will win, with rugby being more a symbol of a desire to overcome history and find a new way forward.
Both Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman are great in the lead roles, and theyre helped by a fine supporting cast. It also helps that Clint doesnt overplay things too much (although he does a little bit), as most Hollywood sports tales do. Its not just two men who change the world by themselves, instead they are figureheads with the actual change coming from elsewhere, as the two main factions of South Africa are brought together for a common cause and learn from one another.
The result is a wonderfully uplifting tale of hope that promote the possibility of change. It also has some wonderfully filmed on pitch action, and it certainly leaves you feeling warm at the end.
Although Clint isnt a director who goes in for overly fanciful visuals and a super-saturated colour palette, the HD picture on the Blu-ray is nevertheless bright and sharp, with little grain. In fact its one of the films strengths that unlike most movies set in Africa, Eastwood doesnt overdo the brightness of the colours, instead giving everything a more naturalistic feel, which is wonderfully displayed on the disc.
The disc also comes with some fine special features. This includes Vision, Courage and Honor, a picture-in-picture feature where Clint Eastwood pops up to explain what attracted him to the story and how he brought it to life on film. Hes a fascinating chap whose intelligence and skill when talking about making movies is very different to his on-screen tough guy image. Theres also a few featurettes, including Matt Damon Plays Rugby, which shows the star learning how to scrum and ruck. Mandela Meets Morgan is fairly self explanatory, and looks at the meeting between the former president and the actor before the film started shooting.
Theres also The Eastwood Factor, a 22-minute cutdown version of the new feature length documentary about the actor-director by Richard Schickel. Although interesting, it does feel like youre only getting a taster of the full version, which will be available as part of the Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years box set, which includes a massive array of Eastwoods films for Warner Bros. as both a director and an actor, as well as The Eastwood Factor 90 minute documentary. That will be available on August 9th.
Finally the Blu-ray Multi-pack includes the film of DVD in standard definition, as well as a digital copy.
NOTE: We’ve got three copies of the Invictus Multi-pack to give away (Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy). Click Here to enter.
Overall Verdict: A wonderfully uplifting story, which may be underpinned by a pretty standard underdog sports team tale, but piles a real sense of history and hope on top of that, and looks great in HD.
Matt Damon Plays Rugby Featurette
Invictus music trailer
Vision, Courage and Honor Picture-in-picture feature
Mandela Meets Morgan Featurette
The Eastwood Factor Featurette
Reviewer: Tim Isaac