Invictus Study Guide

Invictus is a film from 2009 directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Anthony Peckham about the improvement of the South African Springboks rugby team in the 1995 World Cup, which took place during the presidency of Nelson Mandela. Mandela had a hand in motivating the captain of the Springboks, Francois Pienaar, to lead his team to victory. It stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

The film looks at Nelson Mandela's effort to unite the country as the first black president in post-apartheid South Africa, and the ways that his mission coincided with the rise in performance of the rugby team. The title takes its name from a Victorian poem of the same title by William Ernest Hemley, which Mandela took as inspiration while he was in prison for 27 years.

The film was met with mostly critical acclaim upon its release. Peter Travers wrote for Rolling Stone, "In a rare achievement, he's made a film that truly is good for the soul." Richard Brody wrote favorably of the film for The New Yorker, but had some ambivalences, writing, "Eastwood’s view of South Africa is sketchy but warmhearted and filled with fine-grained details. We mostly see Mandela at work, exerting power gracefully and compassionately, and there are no intimate revelations and no ambiguities or ironies. Rather, the movie takes its place in Eastwood’s rigorous series of latter-day reflections on democratic values—here, the republic rests on the shoulders of a virtuous leader who understands the power of political symbolism and senses that a country unites not around its ideas but around its images." The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, for Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.