By Todd McCarthy
Directed by Eastwood with straightforward confidence, the film is marbled with innumerable instances of Mandela disarming his presumed opponents while giving pause to those among his natural constituency who might be looking for some payback rather than intelligent restraint. Freeman, a beautiful fit for the part even if he doesn't go all the way with the accent, takes a little while to shake off the man's saintlike image, and admittedly, the role of such a hallowed contemporary figure does not invite too much complexity, inner exploration or actorly elaboration. That said, Freeman is a constant delight; gradually, one comes to grasp Mandela's political calculations, certitudes and risks, the troubled personal life he keeps mostly out of sight, and his extraordinary talent for bringing people around to his point of view.
By Kirk Honeycutt
The film enters neither of their lives. It's a film about a nation's psyche, not its individuals. Where you would love a vigorous portrayal of two larger-than-life personalities, the film tiptoes through polite scenes where everyone speaks and acts with political correctness.
Likewise, the actors stick close to the surface. Freeman gives you a folksy yet sagacious leader. He ambles rather than walks and peers at people with sly wisdom gleaming in his eyes. He doesn't try to plumb the depths of a one-time rebel or a man struggling to keep both his nation and family together.
The All Black Haka, the war dance performed before the start of a match, is always led by a senior Maori player except when no Maori are available. In the film, the leader appears to be New Zealand European (Pakeha).
Since the New Zealand team has Maori players on it and a Maori leads the chant, it passes the smell test. I presume some Maori tribe or organization has sanctioned it. If whites were in charge of it, and were doing it without approval, I'd criticize them.
I guess the Maori take pride in being considered warriors--i.e., savages. I wouldn't feel the same way if I were them. But if that's what turns them on, so be it.
The South Africans seemed to think the war chant was working. They felt intimidated by it. And the New Zealand team did make the finals by chanting. But then they lost, so the chant ultimately failed them.
Anyway, Invictus is a feel-good movie about the races coming together. Rob's rating: 8.5 of 10.
For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.