Monday, January 4, 2010
Review - Invictus
I wouldn't call Clint Eastwood's Invictus a terrible film, but man, did it get old fast! One can only admire the consistency and prolificness with which the now-79-year-old Eastwood turns out movies, but the quality varies wildly. Invictus is an improvement of last year's horrible Gran Torino, but not nearly as interesting as last year's Changeling.
The gist of the story: Nelson Mandela, recently elected president of South Africa, tries to unite a country still afflicted with the bad blood of Apartheid by inspiring the South African Rugby team, captained by Francois Piennar, to win the World Cup. Typical inspirational sports story mixed with typical inspirational history lesson (I use “history” in the loosest sense of the word, as the history is highly dramatized as one would expect and desire from a Hollywood film).
Morgan Freeman gives a decent imitation of Mandela, but it ultimately comes down to a whole lot of motivational speech-giving. Repetitive and without much depth. Matt Damon manages to straddle that tricky South African accent, but he too never becomes more than a cardboard character. As for Eastwood's direction, it is what you'd expect from a near-octogenarian; tame, predictable, not that there's anything particularly bad about that, but unfortunately his storytelling lacks subtlety. The tensions between white and black South Africans are overdrawn and much too deliberate, especially as seen in the interplay of Mandela's racially-divided personal bodyguards, which obviously ease over the course of the movie.
Aesthetically, the film is sound but unremarkable. Conventionally shot and edited, forgettable but respectable. Less so is the overcooked music of Eastwood's son Kyle, whose score is no less simplistic than what we've often heard from him.
Sad to say, this is right up Oscar's alley. Nominations for Picture, Director, Actor, and Supporting Actor are expected but not deserved. It's an unimaginative choice for the Academy's unimaginative aging members who simply cannot resist the familiar allure of an uplifting true story with a slight smell of “importance” about it.
** out of ****