Invictus is a pretty good movie. It's isn't great, but pretty good. I don't know if it could have been much better.
It's a safe movie. It isn't going to offend or upset anybody but the most easily offended. For a movie that has issues of race at its core, that's saying something. But this isn't Spike Lee's version of South African Apartheid (given Lee and this movie's director Clint Eastwood's previous jabs at one another, I wonder if this could have been Eastwood's response).
I think it might have been tempting to show the darker side of what was going on in South Africa at the time of this movie, but Eastwood chose to keep the move accessible. Is that a bad thing? I think keeping it safe might have kept it from being a great movie, but I don't necessarily think it needed to be so.
There were a couple kids in the theater with their parents when I saw it. The oldest was probably in sixth or seventh grade, and the other a couple years younger. On their way out, they seemed to have really enjoyed the movie. This gives those kids something to think about at their level. And if people are going to be more aware of the history of Apartheid, things such as this movie will only help.
What they might not understand, as I didn't, are the rules of rugby. I have no rugby background at all. After watching, I had to do a little research to fully understand how everything worked. I wasn't totally confused, but if you don't know anything about rugby either, you might want to take five minutes and read about the rules before you watch.
A few people will likely be nominated for Oscars for their performances. Morgan Freeman is excellent as Nelson Mandela, and Matt Damon is pretty good (though the Best Supporting Actor statue is already reserved for someone in a movie in my top 10).
The movie chose to focus part of its time on Mandela's security team. I think they needed to give that a little more time or drop it completely. I wouldn't be surprised if at one point in the scriptwriting process the story was being told through their eyes. I'm not convinced that part of the movie worked the way it was.
But again, Invictus is a pretty good movie. Based on a box office total of just over $20,000,000, not enough people saw this movie. More than twice as many people have seen Old Dogs. That's why the terrorists should hate us.
Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.