Invictus (UK - BD)
Marcus doesn't know anything about rugby but he loves a good sports movie
Based on the events surrounding the South African Rugby World Cup of 1995, Invictus looks at the nation-changing South African win that was inspired by Nelson Mandela’s (Morgan Freeman) passion to unite his country and the team's captain François Pienaar (Matt Damon) as his growing respect for the great man leads him and his men to victory.
Clint Eastwood just can’t stop making filmmaking look easy. I know, I know, people criticise him for some of his choices, and yes the man had a bit of a bleak period for a while (can anyone honestly say they enjoy watching Million Dollar Baby or Mystic River?), but the Hollywood legend just seems to be able turn his hand to anything and at a hell of a pace.
Here he tackles not only a sports movie, not only a semi biopic of Nelson Mandela, but he also manages to weave in the political power the Rugby World Cup had on an entire nation. All of this combined to deliver one hell of a feel good sports movie and with a character like Nelson Mandela at the forefront (as well as having Morgan Freeman playing him) you can’t help but feel for every single beat Eastwood serves up, even if it can sometimes feel a little typical in places.
Freeman absolutely captures the spiritual softness of Mandela and the idealist in me loved seeing the simplistic approach Mandela took to his nation's problems (though not as much as my wife did—seriously, the beaming smile on her face throughout this movie became entertainment in itself). Damon also does a grand job as a man forever changed by his experiences in this tournament and other than the prosthetic dodgy nose, he once again offers up a performance that shows off just how likable and believable an actor he can be in movies. Unfortunately I can’t comment on how good a depiction it was of François Pienaar as I’m not a follower of rugby, but I’m sure Chris won’t mind airing his views on those elements in the comments below.
As for all the haters of this sort of thing, I do appreciate why the sickly sweet nature of the events can be lost on you and judging by a Kiwi friend of mine, not all of the facts were presented regarding the big win—but then, when do these sorts of things ever present all the facts? Despite all that, I’ve gotta say that I totally bought into Invictus. Yes, it’s idealistic and it obviously simplifies many of South Africa’s problems at the time but as a sports movie, it ticks all the feel good boxes. Eastwood took me on an enjoyable trip through an historic event I didn’t know all that much about and made me feel a whole lot about the achievement everyone involved had fought to earn (though once again, not as much as it affected my wife, who still wells up and grins if she sees either Mandela or Morgan Freeman on the TV).
Once again Eastwood goes for blasting out a lot of the vivid colours with bright, relatively harsh lighting, offering up quite an intentionally muted image that as a stylistic choice looks pretty great in HD and shows off the qualities of his filmmaking.
Detail is crisp, with textured surfaces and wide shots looking great and with the slightly grainy image, the movie can often look realistic and almost documentary-like. Because of this, the greens, yellows and golds (though sometimes muted) look pretty fantastic, especially within the rugby kits and when those solid colours are covered in dirt, mud and blood you really see the strength of the transfer in spades.
Invictus isn’t going to float the boats of movie watchers who are after big, flashy, blockbuster visuals, but this really is a fantastic transfer and celebrates the movie perfectly.
Though largely a dialogue driven affair, all of which sound strong and clear, the featured rugby matches are the elements that hammer home the strengths of the DTS-HD Master Audio track.
It’s not as dynamic as many of the of the other sports movie out there (for example it’s not as chaotic and warlike as Any Given Sunday), but it does pack a punch and though it makes the largely unfollowable rugby scenes more effective than they are visually, its more the feeling of the big crowd that excels in the track and the mix creates a real sense of size.
Additionally Kyle Eastwood and Michael Stevens' score is presented well in the track and as per usually Clint’s choices for mood setting music make me want to pick up some of his soundtracks one day.
There are a few features here that sort of lie in their descriptions but still end up being pretty good. Firstly 'Vision, Courage and Honor' tells us that the picture-in-picture track lets us follow Clint Eastwood through the making of the movie. It doesn’t. It’s extra bits from the making off, from all different participants offering up insights into the movie as it plays.
Speaking of the making of, which is fairly typical of for this type of movie (cast stories, the real people the characters are based on, writers and director telling us why they liked the story), it’s listed as ‘Mandela Meets Morgan’ (28:10 HD), which really is a lie. Yes, there is a small element dedicated to them meeting, but really it makes up about three minutes of the nearly half an hour runtime. A little misleading.
‘Matt Damon Plays Rugby’ (06:49 HD) focuses on Damon getting to grips with the game. Once again I’ll let Chris tell you how he did. ‘The Eastwood Factor’ (22:23 SD) is a small segment of a larger documentary available elsewhere and is very good at highlighting Eastwood’s legendary status in film. Lastly there’s ‘Invictus – Music Trailer' (02:36 HD) and, a DVD copy, a Digital copy and BD-Live.
Invictus is a fine sports movie that juggles a lot of elements with a thoroughly rewarding climax. There are some great performances and Eastwood isn’t afraid to present the story with its emotions for all to see. Despite its feel good nature, I have to say that I won't be in a massive rush to revisit the movie anytime soon, as I feel it’s a little too one note but that’s just me, as I mentioned before, my wife could pretty much watch this one on loop and have the same tug the heart strings response every time, so maybe you’ll feel the same.
The Blu-ray has great audio and video presentation and a good batch of features (though some of the descriptions are misleading), so all in all, if you are a fan of Eastwood’s latest movie you should be pretty happy with this release.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 14th June 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, English Audio Descriptive Service, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Dutch, Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Portuguese
Subtitles: English HOH, French, Italian, Netherlands, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Portiguese
Extras: Vision, Courage & Honor PiP, Behind The Story, Matt Damon Plays Rugby, The Eastwood Factor (edit) Invictus: Music Trailer, BD LIve
Easter Egg: No
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon
Genre: Drama and Sport
Length: 133 minutes
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