Saturday, February 12, 2011

Invictus - Movie Review

Watched 'Invictus' after a long period of wanting to watch it thanks to Sagar who lent me a video. It was brilliant, full of great insights and wonderfully underplayed moments. 'Invictus' which is latin for Unconquered or Undefeated is based on a book 'Playing the Enemy' by John Carlin. Directed by Clint Eastwood, 'Invictus' is the true story of how Nelson Mandela, soon after his election as the South African President goes about his job of uniting the blacks and whites of South Africa. Knowing how difficult his job is, Mandela decides that sport wold be a great way to unify the country. The World Cup rugby tournament which is to be hosted by South Africa is a year away and Mandela wants the South African team to win, against all odds.

That is not easy because South Africa was not tipped to go beyond the quarter finals and New Zealanad and Australia were far superior. But spurred by his great vision for his nation ("Our nation is hungry for greatness") the amazing Mandela brings great love and forgiveness in building his beloved South Africa ("Brick by brick"). He insists on having Afrikaner bodyguards much to the dislike and suspicion of his black ANC bodyguards ("reconciliation must start now"). And his spirit of forgiveness for the very people who locked him away for 27 years ("forgiveness is the key") is seen as he walks amidst a booing crowd of rugby fans to a solitary fan holding the new South African flag to congratulate him. He insists that the name Springbok is retained as are the colours because that is the identity of the white minority against all popular belief, all advise. "we must walk together if we want to build a new South Africa".

Mandela meets Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) and tells him of how excited he is for the Springbok team and how he wants them to win the World Cup. "The entire nation supports you". Egged on by his President to "exceed their own expectations" Pienaar and his men, all white, save one black player Chester, win matches against all odds, beating Australia on the way and New Zealand in a hard fought final. 'I will break my hand, I will break my leg, but I will not let Lomu go past me," says Pienaar to the team as they wonder how to stop Lomu the unstoppable Kiwi before the final. A trip to Robben Island where Mandela spent 27 years of his life in a small cell barely enough for a man to stand with hands outstretched by the team further cements their conviction that they must do it. South Africa won the World Cup against all odds in 1995.

This is what can be achieved when there is a greater cause other than oneself. An institution, a nation, led by men and women of extraordinary vision, of great qualities, of an indefatigable desire to see their nation on top will find the foot soldiers who are willing to lay their lives for such a cause. They will rise above all things petty like colour, caste, creed, region, religion and merge into love. It has been proven time and time again that all things great are achieved only by such passion, belief and commitment. Many times the players will feel that they are risking too much but they day they cannot risk that much for the country, for the society is the day they are no longer fit to be in that position. Invictus is a wonderful tale, subtly told, of how great nations, societies can be built by belief, by conviction and by each one backing one another fully. Morgan Freeman excels as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon looks perfect as the Spingbok captain Francois Pienaar of the South African Rugby team. A definite watch for all those who love movies, sport and human nature.


Rajendra said...

Mandela is a saint at the very least. Maybe an avatar of some God. But he shows humans (ordinary mortals) what is possible, if we rise above our own excuses. What vintage is this movie?

Harimohan said...

Amazing stuff really. Movie is pretty new Raja. 2009. DVDs out.