Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman (As Nelson Mandela) and Matt Damon (As Francois Pienaar) , this movie is one of the most inspiring sports movies I have ever seen.
Set in Mandela’s first reign as President of a finally apartheid-free South Africa, this movie evokes great emotion as we witness a nation struggle to forget its past. Freeman plays the role of Mandela very convincingly.
While attending a game of the Springboks, the country’s rugby union team, Mandela recognizes that the blacks in the stadium cheer against their ‘home’ squad, the mostly-white Springboks. He then tries to convince Pienaar, the Captain, to include blacks in the team.
After a very emotional scene in Mandela’s office in which Mandela recites the poem ‘Invictus’, the Captain is convinced. He then proceeds to tell the rest of the team comprising fully of whites the news. The team are unconvinced but as they tour around the poverty-stricken South Africa and interact with black players and fans alike, they change their mind-set and accept the entry of blacks in the team.
The team, now comprising of both blacks and whites, against all odds qualify for the World Cup Final against the New Zealand All Blacks – the most successful team in the world.
Prior to the game, the Springbok team visits Robben Island, where Mandela spent 27 years in jail. There, the team is inspired by Mandela’s will and his idea of self-mastery in the poem Invictus. Pienaar mentions his amazement that Mandela “could spend thirty years in a tiny cell, and come out ready to forgive the people who put him there”.
Fully motivated and supported by a huge army of home fans – both black and white, The South African National Rugby team win the match 15-12 in added time against all odds.
With great performances from both Freeman and Damon, Invictus is a must-watch for all sports fans and basically anyone seeking inspiration because as Francois Pienaar says, ‘The greatest man on Earth changed the way I think.’
The movie ends with Mandela driving away from the stadium in his car, watching the fans celebrate. The poem ‘Invictus’ is recited in the background in Mandela’s voice:
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.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
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.
- William Ernest Henley