Often the biopic is a controversial genre when it comes to movie-making, especially when a film portrays a highly notable and recognizable figure in the recent history of civil rights and global peace, such as Mandela. The critics have mostly embraced Eastwood's latest cinematic feast, but don't take our word for it. After the jump you'll find several 'Invictus' reviews from some of our nation's most intelligent, discerning critics. Clint Eastwood's 'Invictus' is a stirring biographical portrait of the legendary Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman), who, under apartheid, was held as a political prisoner for 27 years. The film begins with the moment Mandela is released from prison and as he steps into the shoes as the leader of an embattled nation, South Africa. In his struggle to bridge the ever-widening gap between the historically wronged South African blacks and the white Afrikaners, Mandela utilizes the national rugby team and its captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to mend old wounds and bring the people together as the team faces off in the heated 1995 Rugby World Cup.
Often the biopic is a controversial genre when it comes to movie-making, especially when a film portrays a highly notable and recognizable figure in the recent history of civil rights and global peace, such as Mandela. The critics have mostly embraced Eastwood's latest cinematic feast, but don't take our word for it. Below you'll find several 'Invictus' reviews from some of our nation's most intelligent, discerning critics.
Entertainment Weekly: "'Invictus' often suggests a spiritual link between Mandela's cunning and the strategies of Barack Obama, with a rough parallel between the film's righteously angry black South Africans and the progressives whom Obama won't appease. The film's speechifying is at times overexplicit, yet Freeman lets the words breathe, and Damon, as the cautious Afrikaner brought to a higher place by Mandela's authority, acts with a coolly impassive fervor."
Variety: "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."
Boston Globe: "Of course there's a climactic game, as there was in real life, even if 'Invictus' ignores the historical side dramas. (Were the New Zealand All-Blacks - named for their jerseys, not their skin color - suffering from food poisoning that day? Sorry, the movie doesn't care.) Eastwood lets himself go overboard in the final moments, putting the action on the field and across South Africa into portentous slow motion and cueing the BAM! BAM! BAM! of the close-up time clock. Once again, though, we understand. There are times for restraint, and there are times - such as a fractured nation at last becoming master of its fate - to go wild with joy."
Newsweek: "Clint Eastwood's 'Invictus' is not your ordinary sports movie, though it comes to a rousing climax at the 1995 Rugby World Cup match between South Africa and New Zealand. The stakes are higher: a nation's unity hangs in the balance. 'Invictus' (which means "unconquered") takes place at the intersection of sports and politics. Its hero is Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman, naturally), who, in the aftermath of apartheid, has just been elected South Africa's president after serving 27 years in prison."
Village Voice: "Like every Eastwood production, 'Invictus' is stately, handsomely mounted, attentive to detail right down to the Marmite adorning the team's breakfast buffet, and relentlessly conventional. As a portrait of a hero, the movie effortlessly brings a lump to the throat (Freeman gives a subtly crafted performance that blends Mandela's physical frailty with his easy charm and cerebral wit); as history, it is borderline daft and selective to the point of distortion."
USA Today: "But the key to 'Invictus' is not players running around on a field. It's two stellar performances and a story that stirs hearts and intrigues minds. It's hard to imagine anyone besides Freeman playing Mandela. He could have coasted on his voice, his charm and expressive face. But he becomes Mandela, and we get a window into the psyche of one of the world's most stirring leaders."
Chicago Tribune: "For all that, 'Invictus' chugs toward its climactic match with ease and a sense of purpose. One of the shrewdest touches is nearly dialogue-free: As two Afrikaner policemen huddle close to their radio outside the Johannesburg stadium during the final showdown, a poor young denizen of the slums joins them. It's not an all's-well moment of unity; rather, the way Eastwood handles it, it's a glancing moment of connection in a country feeling its way past miserable divisions."
Get more 'Invictus' reviews on RottenTomatoes.com.