Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon star in this Clint Eastwood directed film about Nelson Mandela's (Freeman) attempts to unite South Africa with the help of the underdog national rugby team. Mandela hopes to bring his apartheid-driven country back together with a cause everyone can believe in. Damon plays the captain of the hapless Springboks, Francois Pienaar, as he takes the daunting task of living up to Mandela's expectations and looks towards the Rugby World Cup.
Well, this is one of those movies where I was actually alive during the events that were its inspiration, however I can't honestly say I remember even hearing about South Africa's rugby team in 95. Nevertheless, I couldn't help but get myself drawn into the story as Mandela inspired the team to victory, even not really knowing all the rules of rugby myself. I did find the pacing to be a little slow (which amounted to a more-than-2-hour-long film), and of course the plot was predictable, but I thought Eastwood did a decent job at bringing this probably somewhat unheard of underdog story to the American eyes.
That said, I'm not sure if watching 15 or so sweaty men grunting with effort in slow motion in a thoroughly unattractive manner was the best directing decision. I'm all for suspense, but maybe having more than a minute of that could have been avoided somehow. Acting-wise, I thought Morgan Freeman did a fantastic job playing Nelson Mandela, even though throughout the whole movie I never really could forget that it was indeed Morgan Freeman and not Nelson Mandela. Damon, on the other hand, I wasn't all that impressed with. Perhaps it was the accent or something, but something about his portrayal bugged me. Maybe it's just me though. I did enjoy the security team and their efforts to keep Mandela out of harm's way.
The setting was beautiful and they did a good job showing the not-so-pretty sides of South Africa. I'm glad to see that it was actually filmed in South Africa. The music choice also fit very well with the movie and often helped remind that we weren't watching some ragtag American football team, but that the events transpired in Africa. Overall, I think the movie will do very well and brings a standard underdog sports story new life with some interesting historical significance. I'd recommend it, as long as you don't mind watching an understandably long movie without a lot of action in it.