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Cherry Pop

'Invictus' [Blu-ray]
(Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, et al / Blu ray / PG-13 / 2010 / Warner Home Video)

Overview: What does Nelson Mandela do after becoming president of South Africa? He rejects revenge, forgives oppressors who jailed him 27 years for his fight against apartheid and finds hope of national unity in an unlikely place: the rugby field.

Blu ray Verdict: 'Invictus' is one of those inspiring sports dramas that can very easily make you gag. The fact that this film does NOT trigger your gag reflex (at least, not until close to the end) is a testament to Eastwood's poignant direction, and the rock-solid performances of the film's two leads.

The film chronicles Nelson Mandela's plight to unite the blacks and whites of post-apartheid South Africa. His weapon of choice? Rugby. Mandela decides to take one of the nation's most hated teams (its colors have often been associated with racism), and rally support for his newly-freed country. His (somewhat unknowing) conspirator in the scheme is Francois Pienaar, star player for the Springboks.

Freeman shines at Mandela, and Damon gives an understated performance as Pienaar. They help anchor the script, penned by SHERLOCK HOLMES-scribe Anthony Peckham. The script seems to want to take a journey deep into the heart of sentimentality, but Eastwood restrains himself. He makes full use of the soaring music we've come to expect in these films, and the dramatic shots; this is far from Eastwood's best direction, as he seems to give in to genre expectations, instead of defy them (as he did so boldly in UNFORGIVEN).

Yet, he never caves completely, and the film comes off without that sentimental aftertaste this genre usually leaves behind. The film itself is beautifully shot, with some engaging rugby scenes. Indeed, Freeman and Damon may have gotten the Oscar-nods (deservedly so), but the game itself is the star of the film, at times even overshadowing the politics. Which lends the film to some bitter scrutiny, of course; but INVICTUS is so well-made and put together, you really have a hard time criticizing it as a movie.

It's best to view it as a sports film, one which happens to have some political implications; and indeed, it stands as one of the better entries in that genre. [DD] This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

In-depth picture-in-picture: explore the movie's creation with those who lived the real-life saga as well as the cast and filmmakers
Mandela meets Morgan
The Eastwood Factor: Clint Eastwood looks back at his films and career
Matt Damon plays rugby
Invictus music trailer