Before getting into this, I must admit to being one of those folks who is not terribly familiar with history. I guess that means I am doomed to repeat it. In any case, it is true. I mention this because I am woefully uneducated when it comes to the life and achievements of one Nelson Mandela. Of course I know that he spent more than two decades in prison and after his release rose to the office of president in the wake of the ending apartheid. I also know of that he is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and is an important part of the unification of South Africa. He truly has done great things, but when it comes to the specifics of his accomplishments or the methods he employed to do so. With that said, Invictus is an inspiring movie if not a great one.
The biopic is a tough genre to truly stand out in. It is not easy to portray someones life on the big screen, to condense their lives down to roughly two hours of screen time. This often leads to films that cover the big points and miss the nuance, regardless of how well they are received. Just look at Ray and Walk the Line as a couple of prime examples. Both are good films, but the distillation process has left them very familiar and safe. Another angle taken is to try to do something legitimately different. Good examples of these attempts would be I'm Not There and Julie & Julia. What does this have to do with Invictus? Easy, Invictus represents yet another angle that can make the standard biopic stand out from a crowd.
Over the years there have been a number of attempts to mount a Nelson Mandela film, generally connected with Morgan Freeman. Who else could play the man? After all, it was Mandela himself who picked Freeman as the actor he wanted to portray him. I can only guess that these projects never got off the ground as they could not figure out how to condense his life down to the length of a movie. Well, it seems that Clint Eastwood and Anthony Peckham found the right inspiration in the book by John Carlin. Instead of trying to cram his life into the movie, focus on one part of it. In this case, the Rugby World Cup that was held early in his term as President.