Monday, January 23, 2012


Directed by Clint Eastwood.
2009. Rated PG-13, 133 minutes.
Morgan Freeman
Matt Damon
Tony Kgoroge
Patrick Mofokeng
Matt Stern
Julian Lewis Jones
Marguerite Wheatley
Patrick Lyster
McNeil Hendricks

Newly elected South African president Nelson Mandela (Freeman) attempts to use the country’s rugby team to forge national unity in the days shortly after apartheid has ended; based on a true story.

Once again, Clint Eastwood proves you don’t need extensive fireworks to keep the audience engaged. He gives us his normal patient storytelling. Though nothing much happens in the way of action until the big game at the end, we don’t get bored. Instead, we’re fascinated by the picture being painted before us. It helps that Morgan Freeman turns in a splendid performance as Mandela. In him, we see a leader doing what he thinks is best for his country despite the fact he’s alone in his thinking.

There is no shortage of sports movie clichés. Long story short, and I don’t think I’m really spoiling anything here: an underdog team gets their act together. Think of all the movies you’ve already seen with that theme and you get the idea. It also gets to be repetitive. The typical cycle goes something like this: we see some dissention or doubt cast on what Mandela’s doing. Somehow word gets back to him and he pops up wherever the problem is and says a few magic words and everyone falls in line.

It’s a movie that manages to be good in spite of itself. Genre clichés and Mandela’s almost mystical presence threatens to overwhelm, but they never quite ruin things. It just becomes precisely what it wants to be, a feel good movie. This means that while there are reasons to knock it, it eventually wins you over.

MY SCORE: 7/10

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