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"Invictus": Can't Quite Conquer Other Great Sports Movies

invictus_1

 

The word "invictus" comes from the Latin "unconquered" and is kind of a misnomer when describing this film. On one hand, this does have a lot going for it. Morgan Freeman gives a tremendous performance as Nelson Mandela as does Matt Damon as Rugby captain Francois Pienaar. Plus, it's directed by Clint Eastwood who is the Phil Jackson of directors. However, in spite of these things I didn't leave the theater as inspired as I should be, not because I knew how it would end (with sports movies that's to be expected), but I didn't feel like they went far enough.

Quick history lesson:
In 1995 Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa. He wanted to bring his people together after the elimination of apartheid and he decided to do that by hosting the 1995 Rugby World Cup and encouraging the minorities in his country to get behind Francois Piennaar and the rest of the Rugby team despite the racial tensions.

invictus_2In and of itself this was a wonderful story. But the film never really went in depth about everything that had happened to Mandela prior to his election, although they hint at it. They also lack the one thing that makes a good sports movie a great sports movie...there is no chill moment.

A chill moment is a term coined by ESPN columnist Bill Simmons when describing the moment of a movie that is so powerful you get a chill up your spine. This is seen in such classics as "Rudy" or "Hoosiers". Since the film never seems to delve into the lives of any of its characters, including Mandela, we never ultimately care too much once South Africa gets to the finals. So, while the performances are amazing, I can't say the same about the story, which is a shame considering Clint Eastwood's success in this genre with "Million Dollar Baby."

Interesting note: ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary entitled "One Simple Gesture" is about the same subject and is actually produced by Morgan Freeman. Hopefully that will better help me understand the gravity of that moment.

If this does not sound like your cup of tea, then you may want to check out the thriller "The Lovely Bones" or for the kids there's Disney's return to traditional animation "The Princess and the Frog."

Thank You for reading and stay tuned as I travel to Pandora and get my very own "Avatar".

You can see these and other movies at your local Edwards cinema. Click here for show times.

 

- Chauncey Telese