Dir: Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino, The Changeling, Unforgiven, High Plains Drifter)
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon
Seen: December 11, 2009 at Scotiabank
Reason to see: Nelson Mandela story + Rugby? You couldn't keep me away if you tried
I'll admit mostly what got me in the door to this film was that it featured rugby. Then looking further found out that it is set during the 1995 Rugby World Cup I couldn't wait to see it because at the time I was a huge rugby fan and played myself so I knew this was a film for me. Add to that the story of the film is follows Nelson Mandela's early years of being the President of South Africa and working to unite the country and that is a recipe for a winner in my book. Together you have sport and inspiration - two themes not uncommon to each other in the land of film but here it has a different and broader vibe as it concerns the entire country. In that respect it's rather magnificent.
The two things that brought me to the film, rugby and Nelson Mandela, completely exceeded my expectations in their presentation. Morgan Freeman was solid as Mandela, but it is his actions and words that provide the true inspiration - it is so beautiful to see someone who is a combination of kind & caring alongside being a great leader and someone who treats everyone the same, something I personally feel strong about. It is lovely to see a film centred on someone with these kinds of hopeful qualities that I wish more people would aspire too. On the rugby side of things I was also over the moon happy about, they truly showed the sport as it is - physically demanding and often a huge mass of bodies. To a non-fan, I don't think you'd pick up on the complexities of the game but you'd never be in the dark for when things are going well or not. They follow the series faithfully, so much so that certain games, players and even moments in the games I remember from watching the real games back in 1995.
Matt Damon does a great job as Francois Pienaar, the South Africa team captain, he really pulls of the look and demeanour of a rugby player and I commend that the film doesn't over shine him during the games. He's a flanker and he plays a flanker, so when it's a scrum, maul or ruck he's there - otherwise, not so much! It's so refreshing to feel a sport film that feels so real. The film also has a slew of secondary characters that really pull you in and tug your heart from the rugby players to people that surrounded Mandela throughout his daily activities.
There are a few moments where the film gets close to being saccharine, mostly with music coming, but given that it is an inspiriting sport film so I don't think that is really unexpected. I know I'm completely predisposed to like it but I came away loving it and for that I give it credit. Enjoyable, entertaining and inspiring - what more could you ask for?
Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll buy it
I'd recommend it to fans of drama & inspirational films as well as to anyone who enjoys rugby
21 minutes of preshow including 14 (!) commercials and 5 previews: Green Zone, Extraordinary Measures, Up in the Air, The Book of Eli and Edge of Darkness
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© Shannon Ridler, 2009