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Clint Eastwood
Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge, Patrick Mofokeng, Matt Stern, Julian Lewis Jones, Adjoa Andoh, Marguerite Wheatley
Writing Credits:
Anthony Peckham, John Carlin (book)

His people needed a leader. He gave them a champion.

What does Nelson Mandela do after becoming president of South Africa? He rejects revenge, forgives oppressors who jailed him 27 years for his fight against apartheid and finds hope of national unity in an unlikely place: the rugby field. Clint Eastwood (named 2009's Best Director by the National Board of Review) directs an uplifting film about a team and a people inspired to greatness. Morgan Freeman (NBR's Best Actor Award winner and Oscar nominee for this role) is Mandela, who asks the national rugby team captain (Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Matt Damon) and his squad to do the impossible and win the World Cup. Prepare to be moved - and thrilled.

Box Office:
$60 million.
Opening Weekend
$8.611 million on 2125 screens.
Domestic Gross
$37.479 million.

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 133 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 5/18/2010

• “Vision, Courage and Honor” Picture-in-Picture Feature
• “Behind the Story” Featurettes
• “The Eastwood Factor” Documentary
• Music Trailer
• Digital Copy/Standard DVD


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Invictus [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 7, 2010)

For 2009’s Invictus, Clint Eastwood offers a look at recent South African history. After a quick lesson about the end of apartheid, we come to 1994 and find Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) as the newly-elected president of South Africa.

The country may offer new freedoms for blacks, but that doesn’t mean racial tensions disappear. Along with other economic and social problems, Mandela encounters a country with deep divides among races and classes.

And with a less than stellar national rugby team. South Africa will host the Rugby World Cup in 1995, but as led by François Pienaar (Matt Damon), the Springboks seem doomed to defeat.

Which Mandela views as a starting point – and a method to try to unite his divided land. Mandela decides to use the Springboks as a rallying point. Though blacks view the team as a vestige of the apartheid era, Mandela encourages them to look past that and support the national team.

To abet his endeavors, Mandela confers with Pienaar and lets him know his hopes. This sets the Springboks on a quest for the World Cup – and sends the struggling nation along with them.

Given Eastwood’s talents and his high profile, fans expect greatness from him with each film. That’s unfair for any director, much less one who turned 80 the day I watched this movie. However, it’s a reflection on Eastwood’s late-life renaissance. He’s won two Best Director Oscars over the last 20 years and been nominated additional times, so each Eastwood offering is viewed as a potential award contender.

Invictus felt tailor-made for Academy love, and maybe that’s part of the problem, as the whole thing feels a little too safe and unchallenging for Eastwood. After all, this is the guy who recently looked at World War II from the Japanese perspective – not exactly box office gold in the US.

On the other hand, Invictus presents kinder, gentler Eastwood. Virtually nothing about the film veers toward the dark or challenging side of the street. Sure, it relates to racial strife and other issues, but it tends to use those as context more than anything. We often hear of threats to Mandela and other potential calamities, and we see some animosity among the participants, but brotherhood usually rules the day.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, but the tone leaves Invictus as a virtually drama-free movie. This isn’t the case because we know how it’ll end. Plenty of films come with historically inevitable conclusions but they still manage to produce tension and drama; look at Apollo 13, for instance.

None of this occurs during Invictus, as it provides a cheerful 133-minute jog toward the inevitable. We rarely get the impression that any giant victory has been won or that any major accomplishment has occurred. Mandela tells Pienaar to win the World Cup, the captain says “sure thing” and that’s about it.

What pleasure we take from Invictus tends to come from its actors. Neither Freeman nor Damon manages to take underwritten characters and flesh them out to a three-dimensional degree, but they do their best, and they contribute more likability and heart than the scripted personalities warrant. They take thin material and produce good turns.

I also really appreciate the opportunity to get a look at Mandela. To most of us in the US, we know Mandela more as a symbol than anything else. Invictus helps humanize the man and give us a closer look at him.

I have no idea if he is/was as wonderful and saintly as the person depicted in the movie, but even if the real Mandela is only half as terrific as the film version, he’s clearly an amazing person. I’m an awfully cynical guy, but I take real inspiration from Mandela’s optimism and focus on positivity after so much pain and strife in his life. (This influence won’t make me less of a bastard, but I still think Mandela’s pretty awesome.)

Don’t get me wrong: Invictus is neither a bad film nor an unenjoyable one. While probably too long, it still keeps us reasonably entertained as it goes – again, largely thanks to the charm of its actors. Invictus simply loses points because it lacks the heart and spirit it requires to succeed. This is a curiously uninspiring inspirational tale.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Invictus appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. While not flawless, the picture seemed more than satisfactory.

Sharpness was usually terrific. I thought a few shots seemed slightly soft, but those were rare and minor. The majority of the flick offered solid clarity and delineation. No concerns with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement was absent. Source flaws weren’t a problem.

Invictus opted for a natural palette most of the time, though one with a bit of a golden tint typical of flicks like this. These tones were consistently full and warm within the slightly stylized sensibility. Blacks appeared dark and dense, while shadows showed good clarity and smoothness. I felt impressed with this consistently attractive presentation.

While not as impressive, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Invictus suited the film. The soundfield remained restrained much of the time. A few scenes like those at rugby matches added pizzazz, but these were in the minority. Instead, the movie usually went with a general sense of ambience. Nothing challenging occurred here, but the track felt appropriate.

Audio quality satisfied. Speech was concise and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music appeared lively and full, and effects were pleasing. Those elements came across as accurate and distinctive, though they didn’t exactly tax my system. All of this was good enough for a “B”.

When we hit the set’s extras, the main attraction comes from a picture-in-picture feature called Vision, Courage and Honor. This presents interviews with screenwriter Anthony Peckham, director Clint Eastwood, Nelson Mandela’s executive assistant Zelda la Grange, Presidential Protection Unit’s Linga Moonsamy, Head of Presidential Protection Unit Jason Tshabalala, producers Robert Lorenz, Mace Neufeld and Lori McCreary, Playing the Enemy author John Carlin, 1995 Springbok captain François Pienaar and wife Nerine, 1995 Springbok manager Morne du Plessis, 1995 Springbok/technical advisor Chester Williams, 1995 Springbok player Joel Stransky, sports coordinator Aimee McDaniel, location manager Peter Currey, editors Gary Roach and Joel Cox, visual effects supervisor Geoffrey Hancock, composer Kyle Eastwood, and actors Leleti Khumalo, Tony Kgoroge, Morgan Freeman, Marquerite Wheatley, Julian Lewis Jones, Matt Damon, Adjoa Andoh, and Louis Minnaar. Through their comments, we learn about the history behind the movie’s story as well as a mix of production elements like sets, locations, cast and characters, editing and effects, and a few other tidbits.

The movie-making notes are fine, but the history dominates this involving piece. I like the chance to hear from so many of the real-life people depicted in the film, and we get a lot of good background/details about that side of things. Those components help make “Vision” a high-quality extra.

One another good thing about “Vision”: Warner makes it user-friendly. A lot of PiP programs force you to sit through lots of dead space to get to the material, but this one lets you skip from one clip to another. There’s not that much empty air anyway, but this feature allows you to avoid any boredom.

Two featurettes pop up under Behind the Story. We find “Mandela Meets Morgan” (28:10) and “Matt Damon Plays Rugby” (6:49). In the former, we hear from Freeman, Damon, Eastwood, Carlin, McCreary, Neufeld, la Grange, Peckham, Kgoroge, Francois and Nerine Pienaar, McDaniel, Williams, Lorenz, Moonsamy, Tshabalala, Stransky, Currey, costume designer Deborah Hopper, prop designer Dominic V. Ruiz, location manager Patrick Mignano, and actor Scott Eastwood. Its title seems a bit off; while we do see Freeman and Mandela meet, most of the program looks at cast and performances, shooting the rugby scenes, costumes, props and historical details, locations and sets. It acts as a pretty good general overview of various production areas.

As for “Rugby”, it offers statements from Damon, Eastwood, Stransky, Jones, McDaniel, McCreary, Francois and Nerine Pienaar, Peckham, Lorenz, and Williams. It gives us a few notes about Damon’s training and performance. It’s a decent piece, but it should’ve just been incorporated into “Meets”; there’s no reason for it to stand alone.

In addition to a music trailer, we find a documentary entitled The Eastwood Factor - or an abbreviated version of that program. I reviewed the full-length 88-minute edition already, so I won’t dig into this 22-minute, 23-second excerpt in great detail. It shows Eastwood as he discusses some of his movies. I thought the long Factor lacked much detail, so a shorter version isn’t an improvement.

The disc opens with an ad for Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years. It also throws in a music trailer for Invictus, but not film trailer appears.

A second disc offers two elements. For one, it provides a standard DVD version of the film. Note that this doesn’t simply duplicate the DVD you can buy on its own; it’s a more barebones affair. However, it allows fans without Blu-ray capabilities a way to watch the movie until they do take the Blu plunge.

The second platter also includes a digital copy of Invictus. This allows you to slap the flick on a computer or portable gizmo.

In the hands of Clint Eastwood, I thought Invictus would produce a rousing tale. However, the film instead turns into a surprisingly plain affair; it keeps us moderately entertained, but it lacks much drama or excitement. The Blu-ray boasts very good picture and audio along with a fairly nice set of supplements. Ultimately, Invictus stands as a decent film but it doesn’t work well as an inspirational story.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.75 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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