"Invictus"(2009) is masterful. When the Springboks, a South African Rugby team, wins the 1995 World Cup, we see a near miracle of unification. Nelson Mandela, newly elected, chooses the nearly all-white (read "Africaner" or "Boer") rugby team as a symbol to stitch together the racially and economically divided country after the struggle to end apartheid. Forgiveness becomes an important tool in Mandela's search for reconciliation nationwide.
"Invictus" [Latin for "invincible" or "unconquerable"] takes its title from a short poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley written in 1875 and first published in 1888 as part of a series of poems entitled Life and Death (Echoes). [See the entire text below.] Its last two lines are famous: "I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul."
In the film, this poem served as a source of inspiration during Nelson Mandela's long imprisonments. From his first arrest in 1962 through 1990 at both Robbin Island off the coast of Cape Town and at Pollsmoor Prison nearer the mainland Mandela knew the life of a prisoner first hand.
"Invictus" becomes a unifying symbol in the film as Mandela gives the poem to Springbok captain, Francois Pienaar, before the Rugby World Cup. In fact, Mandela gave Pienaar an extract from Theodore Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena" speech from 1910.
Clint Eastwood's sons Kyle Eastwood, who contributed original music, and son Scott Eastwood, cast as one of the Springboks, show some of the range in the Eastwood family. The film's uplifting score features the capella singing group "Overtone" from Johannesburg.
Director Clint Eastwood deftly shapes "Invictus" with strong performances by stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. "Invictus" is a film of enormous integrity and heart.
by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Tagged as: 1995 World Cup rugby, apartheid, Clint Eastwood, Invictus, Nelson Mandela, social justice films, South Africa