Morgan Freeman — who has played everything from chauffeurs to presidents, deities to cons — tackles the role of Nelson Mandela in Clint Eastwood’s latest, the docu-drama-slash-sports movie, “Invictus”.
The captain of the team, ably played by a stocky and square-jawed Matt Damon, becomes his liaison and, even more importantly, his friend. Freeman and Damon turn in solid, if risk-free, performances; Freeman in particular neatly captures the revered statesman’s regal bearing and twinkly-eyed, grandfatherly warmth. Indeed, his accent alone may be worth an Oscar. (For the record, Freeman has been nominated for Best Actor, and Damon for Best Supporting Actor.)
When the big game arrives — with, of course, the South African team in it — Damon’s men find themselves squaring off for all the glory against a squad of snarling New Zealanders, and the final part of the film focuses exclusively on the contest itself. Inside the stadium, a raucous crowd whoops and hollers as the two sides march up and down the field; outside, an entire nation — black and white — has turned on its televisions and tuned in its radios. Life in South Africa has screeched to a halt as every single citizen, it seems, watches, or listens to, the action. Mandela, of course, was right; the championship match, with its tight score and fevered play, has united his people as nothing ever had before.