“Invictus” a tale of triumph through sport

Morgan Freeman portrays Nelson Mandela's heroism

| Jan 5, 2010


Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon in Invictus

Invictus tells the story of how Nelson Mandela united the country of South Africa after he became president by getting its citizens, both black and white, to be united in their support of the national rugby team, the Springboks, in the 1995 World Cup.

hotshots-logoThe Springboks were hated by the nation’s blacks as a symbol of apartheid, but the finals were to be held in South Africa, and if Mandela could succeed, the whole world would be watching the nation come together.

Clint Eastwood directed the film, Morgan Freeman plays Mandela, Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar, the captain of the Springboks, and all three could easily be nominated for Academy Awards and even win, along with the film for Best Picture.

It is that good.

The film begins in 1990 when Mandela is released from prison after being behind bars for 27 years. Then when Mandela is elected president, he states that it is no time to celebrate petty revenge, but is a time to rebuild the nation with every brick available.

He is shown a newspaper headline that reads, “He can win an election, but can he run a country?” and Mandela tells his staff, “It’s a legitimate question.”

When Mandela realizes that the Rugby World Cup will be held in 1995 in South Africa, he decides to try to use that event and the national team to bring the country together and to overcome old hatred and prejudices.

So, he invites Pienaar, the Springboks captain, to tea and enlists his support, which won’t be easy, because the experts say that the Springboks have no better chance than to reach the quarterfinals.

Sure, it is a cliche to end a film on the Big Game, but in this case it works, and you don’t have to like rugby or even know the rules to be excited by the action. Eastwood includes enough shots of the scoreboard to let the audience know what is going on.

The title means “unconquered,” and it comes from an 1888 poem that Mandela memorized in prison to give him encouragement, and it ends with the famous lines, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

Mandela gives a copy to Captain Pienaar to use for the team’s inspiration.

Invictus and the film’s players are also unconquered.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”