Thursday, February 11, 2010

Film Review - Invictus

Film #20 of 2010 - Invictus

Some films about great men are not so great. Take Invictus for example. The story of Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) and his efforts to unite a broken and divided South Africa through the improvement and success of their rugby team, the Springboks, who were one of the worst professional teams in the world. With the help of their team's captain, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) the Springboks motivate themselves and their nation.

Yes, the film is that basic and simple. When Mandela decides that the Springboks' success could be a national remedy, he talks to Pienaar, they have a rigorous workout and have a one day camp with some impoverished kids and suddenly they are beating teams in the World Cup that they couldn't begin to compete with before. Perhaps there was more to the story, (as a fairly logical person I would like to think that this is the case) but perhaps director Clint Eastwood should have had less pointless scenes of security men looking at each other and talking in a small room for fifteen minutes, or even less ten minute speeches that, regardless of their inspirational value, started to make Mandela sound kind of like Grandpa Simpson on a tear, and more scenes that could make the actual plot of the film make sense.

Which brings me to Clint Eastwood's direction. I've always thought that Eastwood as a director is kind of like Ron Howard as a director: they are both adequate and make films that have some mainstream appeal, but there is really nothing great or challenging about them. However, this kind of adequacy just makes a film mediocre and not exciting; what is almost offensive is the eye-rollingly lame overly dramatic scenes that pepper the film and thoroughly dominate the last half hour of the film. Besides the fact that the film wasn't really making sense at this point in the game, I then had to endure about fifteen straight minutes of slow motion, a guy screaming "Noooooooooooooooooo!" not once, but twice before he kicked a damn ball and shots like a bunch of hands clutching a trophy, then finally there are just two hands holding the trophy - one black and one white. In case we didn't get the point for the first 223 minutes of the film, there was a "meaningful" shot for us to ponder for the rest of the film. Thanks Clint, for choking us with the imagery once again. I'll try to keep that down while I'm trying not to go deaf from the loud dramatic music you have to put in every scene of your movies.

Somehow this film has been embraced by some film critics, but it has mainly only been recognized for the lead and supporting roles. Though neither Freeman or Damon were objectionably bad, in fact, they were fine, there was nothing exceptional about their work at all. Mandela was simply Morgan Freeman with an accent. And Pienaar was Matt Damon with an accent and prosthetic nose. The fake nose worked for Nicole Kidman's benefit a few years ago, but then again, she actually did a great acting job as well. There's probably a lot more I can bag on Invictus for, but I think a good summary statement is that, while I am pretty expressive when I'm not pleased (there was a lot of eyerolling and shifting in my seat during the film) my friend Jay, who I saw this with, is not, and there were at least two times when we simultaneously burst into laughter because of corniness or the scene was just plain lame. Somehow I don't think that was Clint's intent.

2 out of 5 stars

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