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'Invictus' scores victorious points

Misani | 4/12/2011, 4:40 p.m.
Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon in "Invictus"

Freeman shared that he was chosen by Mandela, who, in essence, told him over a decade ago that if there was to be a film made about him, he would like the actor to portray him. Consequently, Freeman and his producing partner, Lori McCreary, over the past decade tried to find the right Mandela vehicle. He finally opted for Carlin's book, which was adapted by Peckham, who he highly praised for writing a great script. "If we listen to the angels of our nature, there is a solution," Freeman said. "This is a good thing to put out there, especially now."

Damon shared that at age 19, "I remember Mandela coming to Boston my freshman year at Harvard. It was big...yes, the Boston visit by Mandela was very big. I react more strongly to things that have some social value. ['Invictus'] is a non-partisan message of healing and coming together."

Eastwood (with whom I shared an elevator ride) best summarizes the key role played by Mandela in the film. "I think [Mandela] demonstrated great wisdom in incorporating sport to reconcile his country. He knows he needs to pull everybody together, to fund a way to appeal to their national pride--one thing, perhaps the only thing, they had in common at that time. He knows the white population and the Black population will ultimately have to work together as a team or the country will not succeed, so he shows a lot of creativity using a sports team as a means to an end."

This philosophy of working together is paramount. For Mandela, it began by first working on himself. In the film, the noble poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley, which sustained Mandela during his almost three decades of imprisonment at Robben Island, is eloquently voiced by Freeman as Mandela, who is shown in a surreal black-and-white scene toiling and breaking rocks.

"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.

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."

This powerful metaphor of Mandela silently breaking rocks--breaking the chains of racism and prejudice--to create his dream of a "rainbow nation," richly colors "Invictus," an inspirational film that reaches deep down into the bruised soul, purging then awakening the best in mankind to be truly human. And yes, there is also the interesting game of rugby, which, as Peckham explains, is "about big men running and hitting each other very hard." Eastwood. Freeman. Damon. Mandela. They hit very hard with "Invictus." And in doing so, score victoriously.