Friday, December 31, 2010

One More Paragraph Movie Review: Invictus

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

Morgan Freeman's performance as Nelson Mandela is absolutely brilliant, but unfortunately the only thing I have to praise in a movie I expected way more from. To stay on the positive for a moment, Freeman is able to portray Mandela as both larger-than-life and yet remarkably human, unfailingly optimistic yet tortured, and with great humor yet equal sadness beneath the surface. It's a downright inspirational turn that makes you want to cheer as he nails every speech, making it worth sitting through the scenes surrounding them--almost. Despite clocking in at over two hours, the story still feels like it jumps from beginning to end with no real sense of progression, the artificial momentum and moments of triumph feeling completely unearned, which is obviously a major problem in a story centered around sport. I don't feel like we ever saw exactly why or how a bad rugby team became good or a fractured country became united other than Nelson Mandela asked them to and they did; it feels like we skipped way too many steps between point A and point B and instead were treated to surprisingly dull game sequences with way too many long camera shots and laughable slow-mo sequences. Also, despite this being based on real-life events, the portrayal of just how important rugby was to Mandela in the nascent days of his presidency doesn't feel genuine and borders on a bit absurd, forcing Freeman to work even harder to legitimize him. Most disappointing for me, however, was Matt Damon, one of my very favorite actors, turning in maybe the worst work I've ever seen from him. Damon seems more focused on nailing his accent than infusing his role with any of his trademark enthusiasm and charisma, coming off extremely flat as a result. So while Invictus proved to me you can have an award-caliber lead performance in a movie that's anything but, it mostly just disappointed me.

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