Saturday, February 6, 2010
The mission that he sets upon himself and upon Matt Damon's character- Francois Pienaar- is unconventional to say the least. To win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Mandela realizes that this will be the only way to unify such a divided nation. Francois is the captain of the Springboks, South Africa's national rugby team. He tells him "If I got elected President, you can win the Cup." However, not only is South Africa a huge underdog, the country is racially torn and greatly split between the blacks and the Afrikaners, or white South Africans. The rugby team being made up almost solely of whites, the blacks traditionally cheer for the opposing team.
Mandela's vision of bringing his country together through sport and national pride is both a political and human triumph. Morgan Freeman plays him brilliantly and brings in front of our eyes the man whose charisma, inner strength, courage and intelligence make him a hero to so many around the world. He is an outstanding Mandela and it is true that in many scenes it is hard to differentiate the two. His physique, mannerisms, voice, accent are all a perfect match. He is a replica of Nelson Mandela and in fact when asked who could interpret him in a film the former President answered: "Morgan Freeman", quite an endorsement for the actor. Matt Damon gives a very realistic portrayal as well, having gained weight and muscle for the role, and completely altering his accent.
We see the human, real side of Mandela- or "Madiba" as he was called- a man with his own struggles and doubts, and strained family relationships. When asked about his children he replies that he has forty two million of them and one senses his enormous sense of purpose and love. There are heartwarming moments when both his frailty and determination are exposed. For instance, when having memorized the names of each member of the team, he slowly steps onto the field and shakes their hands one by one, wearing the green Springbok jersey. Or when Francois and his team visit the miniscule jail cell where he was imprisoned for 27 years of his life, with a poem as his motivation to "stand when all he wanted to do was lie down", only to come out even stronger and ready to exceed his own expectations.
Fabio, who loves soccer and I know will watch the World Cup this summer almost as obsessively as Madiba was following the performance of the Springboks, thought the rugby scenes were too long. I found them to be really interesting, well done and fun to watch even though I was not familiar with the sport.
This is a powerful, solid movie with excellent performances. Lessons of forgiveness, team work, unity and perseverance make this film very inspirational. I very much enjoyed it as I have all of Mr. Eastwood's latest. His films are always of an extremely high caliber- in acting, script, cinematography and directing. This one is no exception.
My rating: 8.5
Total score: 15.5