Invictus (2009)

★ ★ ☆ ☆

It is hard to imagine a boring movie based on the inspiring life story of Nelson Mandela. Rather, it would have been had I not seen Invictus. I went into the movie never having seen a rugby match, so I had no idea whether or not the South African team would win the World Cup. Sadly, the tone of the movie was so thoroughly triumphant that the outcome was never in doubt. Watching the movie felt like crashing a victory party for a candidate who's been out of office for a decade. Morgan Freeman played Mandela with such a saintly demeanour, that one might think he had never been through a moment of adversity in his life. This not only detracts from the realism of the film, but it minimizes the struggle of the man, and the movement that he lead.

From a technical standpoint, there was little wrong with the film. I'm told that they did a reasonably good job of portraying the rugby match. Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman played the roles that were written for them. Unfortunately, neither role was particularly inspiring. The fault lies with screenwriter Anthony Peckham. The run time could easily have been a half hour shorter had they refrained from explaining every single event in minute detail. At one point they had Mandela explain a speech that he had given in the previous scene. Presumably Peckham doesn't think that the audience has such a short attention span that they can't remember the premise of a speech given by the protagonist in the previous scene. Rather, it seems as though he thinks the audience is unable to interpret the relatively simple events unfolding. This condescending tone is all too present in big budget Hollywood films. In trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator, they risk alienating moviegoers who don't want to be patronized. This, unfortunately, is why great blockbuster movies are so rare. Peckham has another opportunity to prove me wrong before the year is out. Hopefully his next film, Sherlock Holmes, contains a modicum of suspense. I won't hold my breath.