The natural lack of nonsense is what Freeman and Eastwood bring to Invictus, which could mistakenly be considered the story of Nelson Mandela’s first days as president of South Africa. It’s not that story at all. In typical Eastwood fashion, he has produced and directed something more basic and elemental than that because Invictus is nothing more than a bare recounting of a country and its first inspired steps toward unification.

The formerly long-imprisoned Mandela (Freeman) assumes control through democratic election and dedicates himself to refashioning the country as the best reflection of what the country should always have been. And sports – in the case rugby – proves to be the most finely tuned instrument at his disposal.

The sport and its ability to draw the people in is the focus, more than Mandela or the need to renounce a horrible past or fears of a dark future. It is the game and the will that the game inspires, and Eastwood wisely applies Freeman’s quiet dignity and his uncanny interpretation of Mandela as a complement to the struggles both on the field and, symbolically, in the hearts of the citizens of this divided country.

The two receive able assistance in this endeavor from Matt Damon who, as Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby team, is an actor cut from the same cloth. There is always a high degree of intelligence in his work because he is an intelligent man, but he never puts on a show for its own sake. One day, possibly even very soon, someone might ponder his greatness.

Sometimes the great ones understand that it is up to us to recognize the greatness within ourselves.

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