Clint Eastwood's name is synonymous with quality cinema whether it's from the director's chair or in front of the camera. Invictus, by and large, maintains that image of Eastwood and now it comes to Blu-ray.
Invictus tells the true story of the South African rugby union team at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Nelson Mandela, played brilliantly by Morgan Freeman, has come to power and instead of seeking revenge against those who jailed him for 27 years he forgives them and goes about trying to reconcile and rebuild his troubled nation. He seeks to do this by inspiring Francois Pienaar (played by a ridiculously buff Matt Damon), the captain of the troubled Springboks, to achieve the ultimate glory: win the Rugby World Cup.
If you've seen any sports film before you know the general feel of Invictus and the expected ending. While it doesn't break from many conventions of the genre, the acting is superb with Freeman in top form as Nelson Mandela. It's like Freeman's career wouldn't be complete without this role and he plays the historical leader brilliantly. He adds emotion and heart to the story. You can't help but understand why he's doing what he's doing as he wins you over throughout the film, just like the real Mandela did. He makes some rousing speeches, a few jokes, and works marvels with his facial expressions at times. Matt Damon is also quite good as the buff Pienaar.
I was surprised by how good Damon's accent sounded — it could have been a disaster — but also by how much this was Freeman's show. While it doesn't break from the feel-good sports genre conventions too much there are some key scenes which give it that added emotion and power. Freeman's speech about how his black bodyguards must work with white bodyguards is rather powerful and memorable and also quite true. There are larger social and political concerns being addressed in this film than a lot of other sports films. That does give the story greater depth than a simple underdog story as there is a lot riding on the team's success. It was also interesting to see Eastwood tackle something like this which isn't what I'd normally associate with him; it's always nice to see a director challenge himself.