13 Dec

A friend of mine once told me that if he was ever stuck on a deserted island, he’d want Morgan Freeman with him. His reasoning was that if Morgan Freeman was there, that’s the only way he’d know they’d be rescued and that everything would be alright. I thought about that because Freeman’s at it again. After years and years of starring in uplifting roles (e.g., The Shawshank Redemption, Bruce Almighty), now he ups the ante in Clint Eastwood’s latest, Invictus. Here, Freeman stars as no less an inspiring figure than Nelson Mandela, who brought together the people of South Africa with the help of the country’s rugby team nearly 15 years ago. Wouldn’t you know it, the role’s a natural fit.

To say that Freeman gives a good performance here is stating the obvious; it seems almost too easy. But he’s great. So is Matt Damon, who stars as Francois Pienaar, the rugby team’s captain. (Damon clearly got back into fighting shape for this role after expanding his size for his role in this fall’s The Informant.) Damon doesn’t have a ton of dialogue, but he seems to have the accent down and he has the presence of a leader.

Eastwood keeps the action moving, and in his spare but effective style, doesn’t hit you over the head with cues to tell you how to feel. Invictus is a much better movie than his Changeling and Gran Torino were a year ago. It’s about a rugby team, but it’s not about rugby. It’s about quiet dignity and leadership, and with his graceful and powerful performance, Freeman demonstrates both. I’m giving Invictus an A–.

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