Feel Good: 1/Art: 0

invictus-movieInvictus

After 27 years of unjust imprisonment, the noble Nelson Mandela has suffered enough, so one can only hope he will not see this movie. Morgan Freeman makes an admirable attempt to salvage what seems to be a inspiring story, but director Clint Eastwood just can't whip the muddled screenplay that is Invictus into any cohesive shape.

Someone please take the camera away from Mr. Eastwood and allow him to retire with some dignity. This is a film legend who has given us countless enduring classics and now we're letting him repeatedly embarrass himself by directing schlock. Grand Torino was painful enough, but hitting Mandela with a bad bio-drama is grounds for revoking the 79-year-old director's driver's license.

Eastwood has no control over the arch of this film and swerves wildly while trying make sense of Anthony Peckham's aimless screenplay, which uses emotional blackmail to compensate for poor writing. Random characters are tacked onto the story like post-its on a painting, and then fall away with no real justification for their existence. A cliched conflict is presented, being firmly established in word only, and then triumphantly overcome just in time for an uplifting ending we can all cheer for. Peckham even violates the most basic rule by introducing a gun without ever using it: A majority of the film follows Mandela's secret service, constantly hinting at an assassination attempt that never comes while lamely using these bodyguards as a device to demonstrate the growing unity between the reluctant races. One can almost hear Peckham trying to think of what should happen next as he pushes to fill pages and meet a studio deadline. The result is a script that should be studied by aspiring screenwriters as a cautionary tale of formulaic writing gone terribly wrong.

Morgan Freeman does all that he could have possibly done with the material he was given. Despite Freeman's heartfelt efforts, Mandela comes off as a saintly grandfather figure who watches rugby, gives moving speeches, and stumbles on a national unity that he knew would happen all along. Wink. Wink. Matt Damon, given even less on the page, presents a two-dimensional character that is so thoroughly unmemorable that Damon may have already forgotten that he was in this film. No other performance is even worth mentioning.

The producers of this stillborn baby shamelessly released this picture during a time reserved for holiday blockbusters and potential Oscar nominees. Invictus will most likely sell tickets and, due to the subject matter, will probably take some awards, but it deserves neither. This story is more than worthy of the deepest of human emotions, but this film is not. In the words of Pinhead, "Save your tears. It's a waste of good suffering." - C. Jefferson Thom

cj_thom

Mr. Thom lives in New York City and walks dogs, writes plays, and loves dissecting pop culture.

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