Tuesday, February 1, 2011


The worst examples of human depravity can sometimes yield the best stories in human courage and inspiration.  The twentieth century has no shortage of depravity and oppression on a large scale.  Apartheid may not have been the worst social ill of the century (after all, it had tough competition from the regimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot), but the breadth of apartheid made it somewhat unique.  Invictus demonstrates perhaps apartheid's most unique characteristic, the way in which it ended.

The rise of Nelson Mandela from long-time political prisoner to president of South Africa shocked many around the world and dismayed many whites in South Africa.  The prejudices against blacks, ingrained as they were, did not instantly fall away.  But rather than reverse the lines of oppression, like Mugabe has done, oppressing whites in Zimbabwe, Mandela worked for reconciliation among all South African people.  He caught a vision for a means of uniting the people: rally around the national rugby team.
Freeman is taller than Mandela; Damon is shorter than Pienaar.

Invictus tells the story of Mandela's stubborn, quiet leadership, and his championing the Springboks, the national rugby team, in spite of their less-than-stellar performance.  Mandela inspired the Springboks, and they together inspired a nation.  Morgan Freeman portrays Mandela perfectly, overshadowing Matt Damon's adequate performance as the Francois Pienaar, the Springbok captain.

As with all post-apartheid literature and movies, the themes of forgiveness and reconciliation dominates.  I loved the scene in which Mandela's security detail is met in the presidential offices by the white presidential guard detail, carried over from the previous administration.  Mandela has invited them back to their old role.  When his men object, reminding Mandela that these men and their cohorts had beaten them and their neighbors.  Mandela calmly insists that this is a time of reconciliation and forgiveness, and that it will start in his office.

Invictus, an inspiring sports movie, goes way beyond the underdog to championship tale, but tells the story of a broken nation being brought back together under the leadership of one of the most remarkable statesmen of the century.  Watch this movie.

Bottom line, 4 stars.

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