Nelson Mandela

Inspired tale of a real-life hero

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 January, 2010, 12:00am

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Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president, is a world icon. He was imprisoned for 27 years, and then upon his release won the nation's first all-race elections by a landslide.

But that was the start of a new set of problems. He had to walk a tightrope, managing whites' fears of retribution and blacks' expectations of power.

Invictus tries to capture the broad issues of that time in South Africa's history, and it does a good job. Director Clint Eastwood has been criticised for glossing over some of the darker issues in the country's history.

But perhaps the critics miss the point. This was not about that darkness. This was about a real-life hero - Mandela - and his inspirational handling of the new nation.

Matt Damon shines as Francois Pienaar - the rugby captain who led South Africa to World Cup victory in 1995. Mandela is played by Morgan Freeman, who bravely steps up to the gigantic role, but falls short on the basics of maintaining the former president's distinctive accent and speech patterns.

The name Invictus comes from the title of a poem by William Ernest Henley, published in 1875. It is an inspirational verse which Mandela recited to himself while he was in prison.

Students of liberal studies and history will find rich ground for essays in the metaphors used to tell a story that was begging to be told.