Clint Eastwood's Invictus might look like a sports movie, but the veteran director-actor is again exploring the theme of community, which has shown up in films as widely varied as The Outlaw Josey Wales and Gran Torino.
Invictus, based on John Carlin's book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation, tells the story of a South African rugby team that improbably won the world championship a couple years after Nelson Mandela's election as the country's first black president. At that point — despite apartheid being gone — little had changed. Whites still controlled the economy, and poor blacks, who had been brutalized in the old regime, were expecting faster changes, especially from a president who took office a few years after his release from a 27-year incarceration.
Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, spots a way to help pull the country together in the form of a white South African rugby team. The nation is about to host the world championship, but even Mandela's aides are baffled as to why he wants to back the team led by François Pienaar, played with appropriate reserve by Matt Damon. The two become unlikely allies in a quest to find a common cause for the people of a fragile democracy.
Throughout his career, Eastwood has been famously associated with the idea of revenge, and throughout the film the threat of retaliation hangs in the air. But by focusing on smaller moments, the director efficiently tells a story of uneasy reconciliation. And while most Americans might not know much about rugby, they'll get the picture.
Invictus retails for $28.98 or $35.99 on Blu-ray.