January 9, 2010

Movie Review: Invictus

I have no one to blame but myself.

For the last 7 or so years - however long it has been that Clint Eastwood has been working way too hard for a 79 year old man - I've been left wholly unimpressed with what he's given us, including 'Mystic River,' 'Million Dollar Baby,' 'Flags of our Fathers' and the preview for 'Gran Torino.' (It's true: I couldn't even endure the preview of 'Gran Torino,' with all that growling and over-the-top-obvious Catholic guilt.) So, I should have trusted my instinct about 'Invictus'; instead, I let all the talk (Sure, Matt Damon helped) convince me that it was an important movie to see and worth $10. It wasn't.

Beyond how incredibly slowly it moved (Seriously, HOW do you make the final match of a rugby World Cup sooooo boring?), the most frustrating thing about the movie was its ridiculously heavy-handed plot, symbolism and soundtrack. How heavy-handed? This song - which would be cheesy in the credits of an animated Disney film - played during the climax:

Because, how else could the audience understand how bad apartheid was, how much adversity Nelson Mandela had overcome, and how important this team was to the country? At another point, Matt Damon's character visits the prison where Mandela was held and - in a totally independent-from-the-rest-of-the-movie moment of surrealism - sees Morgan Freeman cracking rocks and reciting poetry. Just in case we didn't understand what his character was learning, he then tells his wife exactly how moved he is. Later, there's another completely-removed-from-the-plot sequence where the audience is tricked into thinking that a Josh Brolin wannabe is going to attack the stadium with his plane during the all-important game. But - wouldn't you know it? - instead, he just does a fly over so the whole stadium can see the 'Good Luck' on the bottom of the plane. Talk about a complete waste of time.

And that's how I feel about the movie - obvious moment after obvious moment - as a whole. Sure, Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman were fine with what they were given to do - mostly look taken aback and serene, respectively - and I know a little bit more about rugby now than I did before. But I've got nothing else good to say about this movie. So, here's the resolution: I will watch 'Bridges of Madison County' and then Clint and I are done. For good, no matter what the buzz is next Oscar season.

6 Twix bars!