by Guest Contributor Geo, originally published at Prometheus Brown
Morgan Freeman: the kind of black dude even an old white racist can’t hate. Which is why he was cast to drive Miss Daisy, free a man from prison, become president (twice), help Batman, and become the literal, physical embodiment of God. Apparently has magic in his melanin.
Matt Damon: the kind of white guy maybe a Panther can love. Plays the peckerwood douchebag role convincingly while managing to assure us he’s a real compassionate, progressive guy offscreen.
Clint Eastwood: the guy who brought Dirty Harry out of retirement last year in Gran Torino and killed him once and for all. One of maybe two or three big Hollywood directors (Martin Scorsese is the other) with a 1970’s movie style that still manages to work.
South Africa: A country with social and political contradictions similar to America but far away enough to not have to think about it if you don’t want to. And close enough, unlike an imaginary planet in the future, to feel empathy for. Once upon a time used to dominate the World News section of the nightly news.
Invictus (2009): the film directed by Eastwood and starring Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Damon as a rugby player. Opens with a 40-minute set-up story of Mandela’s election and transition to President of South Africa. Obama/Mandela parallels everywhere. Although Mandela is played like a funny-accented black Confucius, the racial tension and political drama make for entertaining historical fluff. Along comes a whole ‘nother story about the South African rugby team, which Mandela recruits to unite the country by winning the World Cup. Like Eastwood recruiting a tiring formula to add some action to a political biopic.
Because a movie about Mandela himself, particularly the parts of his life we haven’t seen on TV before, is worthy of its own two hours. And so is the rugby team’s story, which would’ve probably made yet another one of those decent inspirational sports stories. The ones that do an awesome job of convincing us that sports is a matter of life and death.
Sometimes, we’re convinced. But when it’s tasked with something like, say, healing the wounds of Apartheid, it’s a cinematic gamble that loses. Not to mention the audacity of the American movie industry to make a movie about another country’s history in its own image, or the way we eat it up like that’s not some seriously fucked up shit. Plus, we all know Mandela had a much thicker accent than that.