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Invictus

tn_invictusSo Mandela (Morgan Freeman) has just been elected president of South Africa. The headlines ask, “He can get elected – but can he run a country?” Mandela says it’s a legitimate question.

Apartheid ended a few years earlier, but the white Afrikaners still aren’t ready for this. In his first day as president he has to make a speech explaining to the white people in his office that no, contrary to rumors they are not fired. Whatever they did in the past is in the past. If they don’t want to work with him then fine, pack your shit (paraphrase), but otherwise he needs you so stay and do what’s right for the country.

The mistrust goes both ways. Mandela’s head of security (Tony Kgoroge) knows this is gonna be a tough job, but when he asks for more men Mandela gives him a bunch of white South African cops, the enemy of the African National Congress. He has every reason to believe these scary motherfuckers could plan an assassination themselves, but Mandela wants them for their symbolic value. If he goes around with an integrated security team then that says something. What else can he do, really? Somebody’s gotta put their toes in the water.

mp_invictusAttending a rugby game, Mandela notices that the black fans are all rooting for the other team, and he understands why. To black South Africans, the Springboks team and colors represent the old South Africa, they represent apartheid. In fact, the sports council is trying to change the name and colors and start over, like Marvel comics did with the Incredible Hulk movies. But Mandela knows the Ang Lee version is actually better and convinces them that the way to do it is not to abandon ship and find a new one but to keep the ship and make it into something people like.

(holy shit, that was a real metaphor pile there – a boat representing the movie HULK representing Mandela’s rugby strategy which itself was a metaphor for South African unity which in this movie can also be read as a metaphor for the racial, political and cultural divisions here in the U.S… or at least I think so. More on that later.)

So if you’ve seen the trailer or heard the story before then you get an idea what this movie is – Mandela meets with the captain of the crappy Springboks (Matt Damon with blond hair and a South African accent) and tries to inspire him knowing that in turn his success could inspire the nation. And it works. The team makes it to the World Cup and (SPOILER) all races root for them.

There’s all kinds of feel good business in here obviously. You got the underdog team pulling its shit together and more importantly you got the opposites begrudgingly learning to respect each other, the black people learning to love rugby, the white people learning to tear up at the new national anthem, the orphan street kid who refused a donated Springbok jersey now listening to the game on the radio with the white cops. Yeah, maybe I could be real cynical and say that it’s manipulative, but fuck it, it worked on me. It’s a story about great leadership (in government and in sports), about finding meaning in sports, about trust and forgiveness and getting along.

It’s a true story but there’s so much accidental symbolism popping up – like they face New Zealand (a team named “The All Blacks”!) in the world cup, and the team does a menacing Maori war dance before the game. It’s as if to say come on guys, the New Zealand colonists and natives are trying to respect each other’s cultures. It can be done. This is the ’90s man, get it together!

And it’s funny because you learn to really like this security team, and you understand their paranoia bringing their guy into a stadium full of tens of thousands of people. Then all the sudden you see this creepy white guy seeming to scope out the stadium before the game. Holy shit, is this turning into IN THE LINE OF FIRE? I mean, I know nothing happened, but I don’t know this story. Maybe something almost happened? (If you saw the movie and you’re wondering, like me, the historical accuracy of what happens there – apparently it’s real but less insane. In reality they had clearance from the security team to do it.)

I guess now that we’ve mentioned IN THE LINE OF FIRE it’s time to mention that INVICTUS is directed by Oscar winning director and legendary Badass Laureate Clint M.F. Eastwood. It’s very much his style, very economical, sort of quiet and deliberate (almost stiff) for a while, long stretches with no music, or very minimalistic Eastwoody music by his son Kyle and some other guy. (Warning: there’s a pretty terrible pop song called “Colorblind” in the movie and on the end credits, but otherwise it’s Clint’s classy, restrained take on South African influenced scoring.) But without any fancy tricks it gently folds you into the character drama and by the end you’re completely swept up in the emotion.

Damon is good. He looks tougher than as Jason Bourne, but his character is a pretty straightforward nice guy. Just a dude staring into a call to greatness and saying, oh jesus, I guess I gotta say yes. His accent wasn’t distracting to me – not sure how accurate it is. If I had to guess I’d say Thomas Jane was more accurate in STANDER, but I don’t know.

Not surprisingly Freeman as Mandela is the key performance. I thought it was gonna have the usual problem of the recognizable actor playing the recognizable historical figure and not meshing, but I forgot that immediately. The accent and speech patterns are more impressionistic than impression, they’re there but not full on. But man, he steps out of the usual Morgan Freeman character. So much of what he does is physical, the way he walks, the way he smiles, the way he sits like a frumpy old man watching the game. He gets exactly what he wants but in a more friendly and less forceful way than some of the typical Morgan Freeman characters. He inspires people instead of intimidating them. Also, he doesn’t narrate. I’m sure he was tempted, but he didn’t do it.

Apparently Mandela himself said that Morgan Freeman should be the one to play him (sorry, no dice Treach), and since then Freeman has been struggling to adapt his autobiography into a movie. Then this book came out and they realized this was a better way to do it, the ol’ CAPOTE route of one story that tells you alot about the man, instead of trying to cram his whole life into a couple hours of film. The author of the book called the rugby game “an event that distills the essence of Mandela’s genius, and the essence of the South African miracle.” So instead of the story of Mandela being locked up for 30 years, then being let out and becoming president, they made an underdog sports movie. It just happens that the inspirational coach is replaced by the president, and one of the most important historical figures of the century. He’s also like the workaholic dad, because he keeps having these important meetings and trying to sneak out to watch the rugby game. So it’s satisfying as a portrait of Mandela and as a feel-good sports movie. How the fuck did they do that?

* * *

The title comes from the poem that Mandela kept written on paper in his cell. In the movie he gives it to Damon’s character to inspire him, in reality I guess he gave him an excerpt from a Teddy Roosevelt speech. (I bet he also gave him “Oh! The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.) From what I’ve read there are lots of little details wrong, but it sounds like it’s overall pretty accurate, not just dramatized bullshit. Part of what makes it feel real is that it’s all shot in South Africa with alot of it in the real places – the real jail cell, the real stadium, it even has the exterior of Mandela’s real home and interiors of real government buildings nobody’s been allowed to shoot in before. (Hey man, this is Clint, give him the permit.)

So it’s got a real South Africa texture, but it’s an American movie with an American director and two American leads, and I couldn’t help but think about it as a story about our country right now. These days most Americans agree that our country went in the shitter during the Bush years (whether they blame that on Bush or coincidence). But after a decisive victory for “hope” and optimism at the polls, various forces went about dividing our country more than ever. Admittedly we on the left are spending most of our time mad at each other (mainly the politicians bending over backwards to water down and compromise any chance at progress due to a combination of corruption and cowardice), but the right sure were quick about demonizing Obama as a Muslim, a socialist, and a foreigner. In the same way Dogme 95 was supposed to make filmatists more creative by taking away their usual crutches, right wingers have been very creative in going after Obama without being directly, openly racist.

Or that’s how it looks to me. I hate those fuckers, and they hate me, but mostly Obama. None of us seem to be getting what we want, and it’s hard to see anybody working together in the near future (if we try, god damn Joe Lieberman will figure out a way to ruin it). Shit, remember that Jeremiah Wright business? There are stupid white people just as afraid of Obama as the Afrikaners were of Mandela. You know, the type of white people who would cross the street if they saw Briant Gumbel coming the other way. But we do have this leader who symbolizes a change in our country (if not as big a one as Mandela did – or maybe bigger, considering this was the home of slavery). He’s charismatic, he’s convincing, he’s (in some cases) trying new approaches. And maybe he needs to figure out what his rugby game is. He needs to get both sides singing that National Anthem together in unity, not trying to prove ownership.

I mean, obviously it’s a movie about South Africa. It’s moving because it really happened, because some of the worst shit to go on in the modern age, some bullshit that you never thought would end, really did end. But South Africa is about the world. If the South Africans could dismantle apartheid in our lifetime, then doesn’t that mean we should be able to fix some of our problems?

Eastwood is so prone to greatness that he makes big statements on accident. For example, his last movie GRAN TORINO worked as an UNFORGIVEN style commentary on the non-western side of his screen persona, deconstructing the attitudes about race and violence in the DIRTY HARRY movies. But it was a script that wasn’t even written for him, and when he had it rewritten he just had them change the location to Michigan to take advantage of tax breaks there.

The same thing might be true with this one. Not that he changed it to South Africa because it’s cheap to shoot there, but that he saw it as a great story about Mandela and not necessarily about USA 2010. But when he says in an interview that it was “a chance to show an example of how a very charismatic person can affect a whole country by using his creative powers,” I’m pretty sure it occurred to him that people want something like that from Obama. Or maybe Clint’s just trying to get Obama to see the movie, sell another ticket.

* * *

The opening scene gave me chills. Some white kids are practicing rugby, while clearly-more-impoverished black kids are playing soccer on another field nearby. This is 1990, apartheid is being phased out, but they are still segregated, that’s just how it is. A motorcade goes by, and the black kids run excitedly to the side of the road to chant, “Mandela! Mandela! Mandela!” Mandela has been released and he’s being taken away from the prison. It reminded me of being in the streets chanting “Obama!” when we got our first black president, but of course this is something even more profound to these kids. They’ve lived their whole lives under apartheid, most of their parents have too. Who can believe this is happening?

But the white rugby kids don’t even know what’s going on, they have to ask their coach, who mutters something about Mandela being a terrorist and remember this as the beginning of the end. But the kids don’t understand that either. They just watch, confused.

Thinking back on that scene today I realized the symmetry of the movie. It opens with that and it ends with white kids and black kids all playing rugby together. It says that a small thing, a silly thing, can be profound. Something as simple as throwing a ball around can heal the world if you know what you’re doing.

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Here’s a good Guardian article about Morgan Freeman and the movie where I got the author quote from.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Sunday, January 3rd, 2010 at 12:23 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews, Sport. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

46 Responses to “Invictus”

  1. I pretty much agree with everything in this review, but something bugs me about Clint’s recent output. I can’t put my finger on it. This felt like an A-list TV movie to me. Maybe it’s the washed out cinematography, all blank white skies and murky crushed blacks. Maybe it’s the soundtracks that sound like someone is just futzing around on the piano (and man was that pop song horrible). Maybe it’s all the on-the-nose dialogue and his tendency to do character work in shorthand. Clint has nothing to prove to anyone, least of all me, but I hope he has more UNFORGIVENs than INVICTUSes left in him. I’d hate to do something rash, like accuse the man of making blatant Dear Oscar films. Ahem.

  2. Vern, is there any mention of ‘Suzie’ the supposed Springbok spy who somehow managed to poison the All Blacks side before the final? The story is no doubt apocryphal but a hell of a lot of kiwis believe it to be true and it would be nice to see it addressed.

    Anyway, looking forward to this, it does seem incredibly well-observed from the trailer even if Damon is far too small to be a Number 8.

  3. My favorite scene was when the team goes to play rugby with the poor kids. On the one hand it’s a great scene to have because I didn’t (and I’m guessing most Americans don’t) have any clue about what the rules for rugby are, so this is a good, natural way to fit that in, in a way that doesn’t involve someone making a big long speech. It’s like that scene in Pale Rider where he says the prayer wrong so you kow he’s not a real preacher, but no characters ever comment on it. And it gave the movie a nice call back to that first scene where the poor black kids have no interest in rugby but the well-dressed white people did. But it’s the little details that make that scene for me, like the way the kids all swarm the one black Springbok and the rest of the team just sort of goes with it. I’m an easy mark for these sort f movies and I was glad to see Eastwood come through and make such a good one. I would have been fine if the movie was Miracle level quality, but quality of the filmmaking, the performances and the fact that it is an International story, it gives it a deeper level then movies like that.

  4. I liked how we got a rugby movie. And I know jackshit about rugby.

  5. The Maori war dance is called a haka. Apparently the All Blacks perform it before all (most?) games and some of the orc extras in Lord of the Rings did

  6. Its interesting (or depressing to some quarters) that INVICTUS and PRECIOUS are dying in theatres, but from the looks of it, a more shallow and routine run of the mill movie of the week in BLIND SIDE is tackling the box office.

    OK I can understand why ignore PRECIOUS, since its not exactly an escape from reality that some would want. But isn’t INVICTUS supposed to be the feel good venting?

    So yes, Sanda Bullock blind sides Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Jason Bourne.*

    *=Vern, you don’t seem to like those movies. How come?

  7. The Springboks are constantly kicking our ass . The last game I’ve seen , Springboks vs Italy , it was an humiliating 26 – 0 . 26 – fucking – 0. We are unable to touch them .

  8. A consistently good filmmaker these days, Clint M. F. Eastwood has indeed demonstrated a nice allegiance to and hope for his nation’s current administration, though I’m glad he left it to an interview response to reveal that he’s subtly disguised it as a sub-motif & poignant parallel in this story about Mandela’s turn as South Africa’s figurehead–(Cue the ring announcer’s microphone approaching Sylvester Stallone’s/Matt Damon’s lips as a bloody Dolph Lundgren/racist rugby stud looks on with bilingual catharsis blazing behind his eyes.) I guess what I’m trying to say is, if Dirty M. F. Harry can change, and you can change, everybody can change!

    ************************************************************

    Incidentally, I just saw a preview for “From Paris with Love,” which looks like it might be up your alley. A shaved-headed Travolta kicks ass and uses an antitank weapon in a film from the director of Taken? I’m there.

  9. RRA – Actually I like all three of them, but I don’t love them, and I know a bunch of people who think they’re the be-all and end-all of action movies, so I get sick of hearing about them. If I mention them negatively alot though it’s just because of the way they influenced other movies to have the shakycam (although alot of it works well in the Bourne movies). In this case I didn’t mean it as a slight on Bourne, I just thought he looked like he worked out more in this (or maybe it’s because Eastwood was trying to shoot him to look big, like the actual guy).

  10. Solid flick, and it’s too bad (as RRA mentioned) that it’s not doing so hot at the box office. PRECIOUS, at least, while not making BLIND SIDE numbers, is a low-budget film making a tidy profit.

    Vern, what are your thoughts on CHANGELING? You seemed to miss that one, which is odd considering that it’s a fairly recent Eastwood flick, released a couple months before GRAN TORINO. I asked this before, and you either had nothing nice to say about it, forgot to respond, or refused to respond because there’s some kind of conflict-of-interest thing going on because you are, in fact, Angelina Jolie.

  11. Vern – Understable, though honestly you must admit that some of those BOURNE movies were tackling the Bush Years before the rest of Hollywood got the balls*, intentionally or not.

    Sure it was produced before, but released after 9/11, BOURNE IDENTITY really in hindsight is freakish in how the bad guys at the CIA operated like the Dubya White House did on the eve of the War in Iraq. I mean you have Chris Cooper mostly assuming that Damon has gone rogue and traitor not out of any good evidence, but because well, surely an assassin should be back home with the company after a mission, right?

    Look what Dubya did with Iraq, since surely Saddam Hussein must have had WMDs because he made a giant effort to hide “something.” Of course now we know that hiding was an epic smokescreen.

    Then SUPREMACY, you have another CIA villain manipulating false evidence to implicate the hero, thus distract government attention from the real issue and real threat (said villain and Russian buddies) to deal with an exile threat that wasn’t a direct immediate threat to national security. Does that sound familiar? Al Qaeda, fuckers behind 9/11, in Afghanistan…but we divert all our resources into Iraq. Which didn’t attack us. Hell Saddam helped contain Iran, a government on the verge of going nuclear armed. Way to go Dubya, you made the world less safe.

    Now ULTIMATUM was more on the nsoe, less subtle with the politics and more direct in its criticism of the Patriot Act-armed American government. Since by 2007, you could do that. I mean who didn’t get pleasure from non-gadget Damon outsmarting the billion-dollar spy cameras and technology at the train station?

    So yeah, I would consider the BOURNE series to be the movie series of the decade. Terrific action cinema, but mostly out of politics and for being in social-government commentary, the right movies at the right time.

    Carlos – Perhaps Vern just hasn’t seen CHANGELING yet? Anyway I would recommend that to Vern. Nice murder mystery, female melodrama, some thrilling parts, and a white church concerned about a corrupt city police force, instead of worrying to death about gays getting married or someone in Africa using a condom.

    *=I guess the exception might be V FOR VENDETTA, and IRON MAN. But that last one came out in 2008, when people got so sick of Dubya, they elected a black guy with a funny foreign name. So not as imperssive as say 2004.

  12. The thing I always dug about Greengrass’ Bourne movies were that instead of ripping off Spielberg and the like, Greengrass took his cues from 70’s cop and conspiracy thrillers. Take that bit in Ultimatum where Damon chases down the assassin in London and gets stopped by the subway door. Total French Connection moment, right down to Damon’s Hackman sneer and the smug little smile on the oher fucker’s face.

  13. I thought CHANGELING was pretty good. It was kind of like a Lifetime TV movie, but more compelling and with beautiful cinematography. I didn’t know the story so at the end I really was on the edge of my seat about what might happen. (SPOILER) If you read about the real case it’s insane because the killer’s mom was also involved (they left that out of the movie so there’d be less to explain).

    Also, same writer as NINJA ASSASSIN.

    Of course, GRAN TORINO is more my type of Clint movie.

  14. “Apparently Mandela himself said that Morgan Freeman should be the one to play him”
    Poor Dennis Haysbert. No offence to President Mandela, but he doesn’t have a lot of imagination, does he? Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela is kind of on the nose and obvious, isn’t it? Especially as he’s someone who’s worked with Eastwood a bit already. Maybe Felton Perry should have got a chance, huh?
    Or maybe Mandela’s only seen Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption, and found Red was a lot like him?
    “I hear you’re a man who can get things”
    “I’ve been known to locate things from time to time. What do you need?”
    “An end to Apartheid. Can you get it?”
    “It’ll take a few decades.”
    “Decades?”
    “Well yeah, I don’t have the solution stuffed down the front of my pants right now, I’m sorry to say, but I’ll get it done, relax!”

  15. >>Gwai Lo
    I pretty much agree with everything in this review, but something bugs me about Clint’s recent output. I can’t put my finger on it. This felt like an A-list TV movie to me.

    And you sound like an A grade idiot & troll to me.

  16. Lazarus – not cool. His post was legitimate and constructive and explained what he was talking about even though he said he couldn’t put his finger on it. You just called him an idiot. Neither Clint or Mandela would agree with your approach.

    And I loved Invictus but I agree with him, I want to see more movies like Unforgiven than more movies like this.

  17. Can someone tell me what Lazarus said? I can’t hear him from under my bridge.

    Anyway I don’t want to make it sound like I disrespect Mr. Eastwood, because I don’t. The guy is turning 80 this May, but he directed nine movies in the last decade, and six (INVICTUS would make seven, and seven consecutive films for that matter) of them are awards caliber pictures. All the qualities I mentioned are well-established by now as his style, and I think everyone can agree that he has a journeyman-like approach that works for him. He’s famous for only doing a take or two for each scene, taking scripts like Gran Torino and just filming them as written, and saying “that’s enough of that” instead of “cut”. That’s Clint, that’s his thing. But I still stand by everything I said, and I think it’s legitimate to bring up perceived flaws when he gets the kind of universal acclaim that he tends to get for each of his movies. I did like INVICTUS for many of the reasons Vern cited, but I liked it in the same way I like the occasional TV movie that I intend to turn off after the first commercial break and keep watching, through cheesy pop songs and emotional power chords.

    Thanks for getting my back though Vern, this is a great place to discuss film and so far AICN-style flame-bait has been handled with true class. Keep up the good work there bud.

  18. No need to explain yourself any more than you already have. If you don’t like the movies, you don’t like the movies. That’s all there is to it, and everyone except for a certain resurrected motherfucker is cool with that.

    As for me, I don’t even have an opinion on the matter because I haven’t even seen any of Clint’s recent prestige output except for Gran Torino, and that was the only one that didn’t even get nominated for anything. Nine times out of ten, I’m just not a dude that’s going to choose to watch a mainstream drama. No disrespect to Clint, whom I admire and respect, but stuff like Million Dollar Baby seems like the kind of middlebrow fare I wouldn’t even consider watching if anyone else had made it. I’m sure I’ll get around to them someday, but for now, I’m too busy watching groundbreaking films like Death Wish 4 and Fist of Power.

  19. I wrote a review of Gran Torino when it came out, and figured I’d find it and post it since that one is generally regarded as one of his good ones from this decade, a return to form of sorts, and personally I hated it. I didn’t get where all the praise was coming from on that one, although Vern made as good a case as any. As near as I could see everyone was just in love with the character/actor Walt Kowalski/Clint Eastwood (as they should have been) and didn’t notice the godawful story that was built around him. Anyway here’s that review:

    And this year’s Paul Haggis Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Category of Racial Cliché goes to… Gran Torino!

    You have to love and respect Clint Eastwood because when it comes to being a badass he’s the best. And make no mistake, this is one of those meaty Clint Eastwood roles where he got into character with a strict diet of piss and vinegar. Normally I would be all over a movie like this. Walt Kowalski is basically Dirty Harry in retirement, doing some light reading (the Webster’s Thesaurus of Ethnic Slurs) when he’s not fixing a sink or scowling at his grandchildren. Then one fateful day, Crash showed up at his house and wouldn’t get off his lawn until he participated in an after school special on racism.

    The problem with this movie is that every single character in it is a cliché, racial or otherwise. Walt Kowalski is the most nuanced character in the film, and he’s just Clint Eastwood playing a racist with a heart of gold. I suppose the runner up for most nuanced character is the milquetoast pastor fresh out of seminary school that attempts to squeeze a confession out of Walt. That’s the high water mark for depth of character here. Every single member of Walt’s family, on the other hand, exists and speaks lines of dialogue for one reason: to make the Hmong family next door look like pillars of goodness in comparison. Walt has two sons, but they miraculously share the same one dimension where they constantly announce what a grouchy old asshole their father is instead of having realistic conversations. We know their kids are spoiled because one of them straight up asks Walt for his car and couches after he dies. Which would be more convenient for her if it was sooner rather than later, what with college coming up and everything. Once the script collects enough notes to distribute one-a-piece to all these pesky side characters, we meet the Hmong family next door via their son Thao’s reluctant gang initiation attempt to steal Walt’s prized Gran Torino. This provides a convenient reason for these neighbours to set up a pipeline of “that good gook food” straight from their kitchen to Walt’s mouth, or to give him the unexpectedly noble Thao as his indentured servant, or to garland his porch with gifts whenever he steps out for groceries or his daily gang rape prevention patrol. The Screenwriting Police got a report of a racist old fart that required a meaningful change in character, so they dispatched the nicest non-white family they could find to live next door.

    The conflict in this story centers around a Hmong gang that expects (nay, demands) that Thao join them. They feel a sense of entitlement because they defend Thao from a car full of Latinos that threaten to rape him. One of the guys in the Hmong gang is Thao’s cousin, but that doesn’t stop the gang from escalating their peer pressure to drive-by shootings and raping Thao’s family members and all sorts of nastiness that one normally replaces with Indian burns and wet willies when blood relations are involved. Besides the marauding Asian and Latino gangs that make full time jobs out of harassing young teenagers, there is also the constant threat of black gangs. Who, as you may have guessed, are looking for someone to rape. You would think Thao’s older sister Sue and the Vanilla Ice impersonator she’s dating would be able to walk past three black guys without the situation quickly devolving into sexual assault. But no, the script goes there, and gives Sue lines that suggest she’s trying to deflate the boners of her attackers by saying the nerdiest, most cringe-inducing insults a person in that situation could possibly come up with. Then Clint shows up to growl at everyone involved and point his finger like it’s a gun and just be a general badass motherfucker, rescuing women from rape on his way to being a better person. If this movie was a porno, they would have to call it “On the Nose.”

    I won’t spoil the ending, but I think the lesson we’re supposed to learn about racism is I’m not a racist because I have friends that aren’t white. Or something in that ballpark. Whatever it is, it comes from a culture that is far more confused about race than the culture that made Dirty Harry. I know what you’re thinking. “Is he really serious about the Crash comparison? How can a movie with Clint Eastwood being a A-List badass actually suck?” Well, to tell you the truth, I was entertained a hell of a lot more than I was by Crash. But being as this is a Clint Eastwood movie, the most badass actor/director in the world, who deserves better scripts and actors than this, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?

  20. >>Vern
    Lazarus – not cool. His post was legitimate and constructive ..

    No Vern, his post wasn’t anything of the kind. There is no justification whatsoever for describing Eastwood’s recent work as ‘like a Lifetime movie.’ It’s a glib, condescending, snide dismissal of the kind that signals instantly to everyone that we’re not talking with adults here but with the curse of the internet: Yet Another Dumb Kid. Gwai Lo was an idiot & defending him – though well meaning of you – makes you sound like an idiot too.

    PS: As if to confirm Lo posts an equally dumb assessment of Gran Torino, harping on about the supposed racial bias of the film. But hold on there cowboy .. if Kowalski is a racist what’s he doing living in a neighborhood surrounded by gooks? Any self-respecting racist would have moved out of that area a long time ago. If he’s a racist what’s he doing befriending an immigrant teen who tried to steal his car? If he’s a racist what’s he doing .. etc .. etc. Gee, maybe Gran Torino isn’t about racism at all!! Obviously, whatever Kowalski is, he’s NOT racist.

    But then Gwai is no doubt one of those insufferable PC types who presumably regards words to be as bad as actions & whose grasp of Gran Torino’s multi-layered themes snapped shut the moment Eastwood uttered one of those naughty insults that had the audience howling with laughter while Gwai sat there fuming like a virgin that had her ass pinched.

    It’s truly depressing in a sense. So many school/college age kids coming to Eastwood’s mature, late era work & dismissing it as boring, or using that hoary old Lifetime movie jab, because they’re too ignorant & too immature to grasp the significance of what he’s doing. Meanwhile, the grown-ups lap this stuff up & continue to acclaim Eastwood as America’s finest living director. Ever wondered why that is? Never mind, Gwai. One day you’ll figure it out.

  21. Wait, I’m confused about the movie. So the cops knew that internal affairs were setting them up?

  22. Yeah, I think you’re way off on the racism angle Gwai. I don’t think there’s really any lesson about race we’re meant to take from it, and I don’t think Walt’s actions in the end are meant to completely redeem him, nor do I think his racist comments throughout the movie make him a terrible person. I saw it more as a story of a guy who’s kind of given up on life and is pissed off at everything around him, and finds some kind of purpose and something to care about.

    As for the different gangs, aren’t most gangs, by their definition, ethnic? Would you have felt better if it there were one of the those fake gangs you seen in action movies where every member is a different race?

  23. Lazarus, everybody else here is talking about movies. You’re just being a dick. Gwai Lo made his points and defended them eloquently. Rather than arguing your side, you merely insulted him personally. Calling Gwai Lo an idiot isn’t going to affect his opinion of Gran Torino, but it’s going to affect everyone else’s opinion of you. If you can’t see that, then you’re the immature one here.

  24. My issue wasn’t with Walt Kowalski’s racist language: “Normally I would be all over a movie like this. Walt Kowalski is basically Dirty Harry in retirement, doing some light reading (the Webster’s Thesaurus of Ethnic Slurs) when he’s not fixing a sink or scowling at his grandchildren.” I wasn’t sitting there cringing at Clint firing off those slurs. I’m a big boy. Most of it is funny. In fact, the thing I enjoyed most about Gran Torino was the character of Walt Kowalski himself, in a vacuum, without the shitty post-Haggis plot built around him. The character of Walt Kowalski is less racist than the STRUCTURE of the movie itself.

    My issue was with the condescending way the film sets up its conflict. It’s fairly simple from a structural standpoint. I mean within 30 seconds of the movie starting it has Clint’s two sons explaining who the character is and what kind of meaningful “Lifetime movie” (your words, not mine) character change he’s going to require. Why write a character when you can just have four lines of dialogue that give you a summary? I had to track down the script:

    MITCH
    Look at the Old Man glaring at
    Ashley. He can’t even tone it
    down at Mom’s funeral?

    STEVE
    What do you expect? Dad’s still
    living in the ’50s. He expects
    his granddaughter to dress a
    little more modestly.

    MITCH
    Yeah, well your kid’s wearing a
    Timberwolves jersey. I’m sure Dad
    appreciates that.

    STEVE
    My point is that there’s nothing
    anyone can do that won’t
    disappoint the Old Man.

    That’s what writers in the business call “on-the-nose dialogue.” Characters announce exactly what the writer wants you to take from the situation. So we know Clint’s kids are pricks, and that they think Clint is a prick. How about his grandkids? (Ashley is referring to the titular Gran Torino in the first line)

    ASHLEY
    So, what are you like going to do
    with it like, when… you die?

    Walt lights up a smoke —

    WALT
    Jesus, Joseph and Mary.

    Walt pulls the cover back over the Gran Torino.

    ASHLEY
    Then what about that super cool
    retro couch in the den, I’m going
    to State next year and I don’t
    have, like, any furniture?

    Walt walks out without commenting.

    OK then. But neither of these exchanges have anything to do with racism. They’re structural moves that make Clint’s biological family look like boorish, horrible people compared to the Hmong family next door. All the Asian buffets and flower garlands in the world won’t win Clint over to the Hmong-side if he doesn’t have a real family to be the selfish flipside to all that selflessness. It’s a very cheap trick from a writer’s standpoint, it would be much more difficult (and in the end result, nuanced) if Clint’s family were three dimensional people who have good qualities to go along with their flaws, and he STILL had to learn that the Hmong family next door were more than the fuckin’ gooks he saw them as.

    But they’re not, really. They’re just the flipside to Clint’s biological family. Instead of being selfish assholes they’re pillars of goodness, like I mentioned in my review. Again, cheap writing tricks, they make Clint’s journey to self discovery a lot easier for him to take, because he’s given the black and white equation of My Family = sucks, Neighbor Family = awesome. And it is a journey to self discovery, don’t pretend like it isn’t. Clint is meant to find human connections in the absence of his wife, and he ends up putting some of his flaws to bed in the process. He comes to regard the gooks next door as human beings, and in fact they turn out to be better human beings than his own blood relations. That’s the lesson he learns, I thought it was obvious. And along the way he’s their White Knight, rescuing them from multiple rapes and finally making the ultimate sacrifice for them.

    So excuse me if I find it all a little bit ham-fisted. But if that’s not enough of a defense for you, I implore you to simply watch the scene where the gang of black guys try to rape Thao’s sister and her white boyfriend. If this isn’t a face-slapper of post-Haggis race relations in the movies for you then we must just be on different wavelengths.

    And Lazarus, although I did not need to go to these lengths to defend myself after you took your shots at me, thanks for showing me how adults are supposed to discuss film and behave on the internet. You really wrote the textbook on that one there bud.

  25. For the record, I think Clint’s movies of late have tended to be eloquent, classy, and nuanced filmatism put to painfully shallow and underwritten stories. I found that to be the case with GRAN TORINO partiularly, but I thought the same thing about MILLION DOLLAR BABY, CHANGLING, MYSTIC RIVER, and recently INVICTUS. Clint tends to do his best work with simple stories that are rich in nuance, and unfortunately his most recent scripts tend to abound in exactly the sort of broad strokes Gwai Lo is describing and offering unfortunate examples of.

    Clint knows how to get nice peformances and set up beautiful shots, but when the characters are so shallow and the stories so formulaic, it doesn’t amount to much and ends up having that unfortunate Lifetime Movie feeling that a couple people have been noting. Which is to say, cliched, manipulative, and shallow –even though its put together competently enough. Although Clint obvious has the chops, I think he’s going to hit a home run with a surprisingly narrow range of material which plays to his skill. He’s got a very old-fashioned, classic filmmaking style but it only occasionally gets put to use by a great classic script. Not many peope are writing that kind of script these days, (it seems) hence Clint’s checkered record behind the camera. He always brings his A-game, but the material he’s applying it to sometimes lets him down.

  26. I think all of Gwai Lo’s points about Gran Torino are right on the money. It is one-the-nose and schematic, but it’s also fucking awesome. I really think that movies are like life: It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. I don’t mind an unoriginal story (see: my comments on the Avatar thread) as long as it’s the kind of story I like and there are entertainments and elucidations to be found along the way. Gran Torino was a cheesy story told in such a humorous and badass fashion that it cut through my cynicism and let me experience the earnest emotions they were going for. If anybody else had made it, all of that lazy writing Gwai Lo pointed out would have sunk the movie for sure, but with Clint bringing all that history and presence and craftsmanship to the central role and the filmatism, it transcended all that and became something more than its script deserved.

  27. I agree with Mr. Majestyk, except what was forgivable for him sunk the story for me. Perhaps I haven’t been vocal enough about it, but I love Clint Eastwood in front of the camera. The guy just fires bullets out of his eyes. And Walt Kowalski is a great, instantly iconic character. The writer didn’t fail completely because he still wrote that character, all Eastwood had to do was step in and play a riff on Harry Callahan for it to be badass and awesome. I just thought the movie they assigned to this character, a character I can see Clint play elsewhere minus a few hilarious racial slurs, was just too obvious and contrived. It’s the script’s fault, obviously. Written by a first-timer and picked up by Clint because he liked the role and doesn’t read a lot of scripts with decent roles for old guys anymore. Fair enough, but at least run the script past someone who can clean up some of the crib notes from whatever screenwriting manual this guy was using.

    I just think the Badass Laureate himself deserves a bit better, I agree with Mr. Subtlety 100%. Because his minimalist (I’ll use the word minimalist instead of some of the other adjectives you’d expect me to use after my TV-movie statements) style doesn’t lend itself very well to script defects. He kind of steps out of the way as a director and lets the movie happen on his watch. He’s never prone to stylistic flourishes or showoffy cinematography or storytelling through soundtrack or anything like that. In many ways this is a very classy and respectable way to direct a film, but you’d hope that the script would be nuanced and subtle and unobtrusive enough to match the style of the direction. Instead we get movies like MILLION DOLLAR BABY that clobber us over the head with the narrative.

    Maybe that’s just badass juxtaposition or something though and I’m not picking up on it.

  28. returning to the original subject I just wanted to say that I’m currently living in South Africa so am planning on seeing this film when – I confess – I’m not really a great fan of Clint’s films. I haven’t seen it yet – but just wanted to comment on sport in South Africa today, some 15 years after the end of apartheid (also to note – I’m British so this is entirely from an outsiders persepctive).

    Whilst certainly the country didn’t descend into anarchy when the black people took over, it would be wrong to assume now that sport has been the first point of integration and the rest of society has followed. Rugby is still the white person’s sport here – sure there are some Springboks who are black (like the great Bryan Habana) but they are still the minority. When I go to rugby matches here (the Blue Bulls in case anyone knows the place) the crowd is 99% white and you feel like you’re in the last bastion of the Afrikaaner. Its noticable that when the whites in the crowd sing the national anthem (and this also happens at the cricket) they only sing the Afrikaans and English verses. We also have the football (you may know it as soccer) World Cup over here later this year and seriously the white people don’t give a shit. Football is still the game of the blacks – the players are 99.9% black, the crowds are 99.9% black and even the prospect of the biggest sporting event in the world on their doorstep holds no interest for the whites. I don’t know any white South Africans who are trying to get tickets for any games. If this was back home in England – abso-fucking-lutely everyone you know would be selling their kidneys/children/grandmas to get tickets of any sort for any World Cup game. I’m actually hoping that South Africa do OK in the tournament this summer so that we might actually see the whites take an interest – I’m a great believer in sport bringing communities together, and football does this better than any other sport. Having some prominent white South Africans getting behind Bafana Bafana might have the same impact of Mandela in his Springbok jersey – I really hope it happens because from my erspective South Africa still has a long way to go before it reaches Mandela’s goals.

  29. Gwai and Subtlety

    Moreso than most other director of his distinction, the quality of Eastwood’s films are heavily reliant on the screenplays he selects to shoot. As a result, I’ve found his filmography to be inconsistent. If he gets a strong or great script, he has the chops to knock it out of the park (UNFORGIVEN, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA.) But far more often we’re left with movies that I consider to be highly watchable but also highly flawed (MILLION DOLLAR BABY, CHANGELING, FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS, MYSTIC RIVER to name recent output). He’s not the kind of filmmaker that can redeem his story with just his style or skill.

    Gwai Lo makes some excellent points about the weaker, heavy-handed elements of GRAN TORINO’s storytelling. But having recently rewatched it, for me it solidified its place on the higher end of Eastwood’s oeuvre even if it’s not a great film. One interesting element that Gwai perhaps underappreciates is the tension the film creates between the more facile elements on its surface, and its darker undercurrents.

    If you’re like me, you were probably a little thrown off the first time you saw GRAN TORINO because of the tone. The trailers seemed to promise a gritty drama, but a large portion of the film plays as light, affable comedy. (Side note: some of the heavy-handed dialogue that Gwai points out plays better if you view it as comedic, as in the funeral scene at the beginning). What’s neat about the movie is the way Walt’s racism, often played for laughs, becomes more uncomfortable the more genial he becomes towards his neighbors.

    One of my favorite scenes is when Walt takes Thao to the barbershop. It seems on the surface like the explanation and justification of Walt’s racism (i.e. Walt’s not really racist, big boys just like to throw slurs around for laughs). And the movie almost had me going that I was supposed to accept this philosophy, until that weird part where the barber (in jest, ho ho) pulls a shotgun on Thao. Walt kind of laughs it off, but he becomes immediately defensive and for a second looks pretty shocked. It’s right in the middle of one of the funniest scenes of the film, and it goes right back to being funny, but that little moment stings, and it’s no accident. Look at the way Eastwood foregrounds that gun and Walt pushing it away in one of the shots, he wants it to make an impression. I think there’s a similar, intentional queasiness during the confrontation with the black teenagers; you’re laughing, but you’re also uncomfortable.

    I guess my point being, that there’s more nuance here than some people give credit for. Gwai’s experience of the film is what I would imagine the Paul Haggis version of GRAN TORINO to be, where it’s clearly spelled out in every scene how we’re supposed to feel. But I thought Eastwood and his screenwriters did a nice job mucking up the waters, forcing the audience the re-evaluate what they think of Walt and of certain scenes in the film.

  30. Oh I also meant to mention something about the way the film deconstructs Eastwood’s screen image, analyzing what we love about his iconic characters, but also what may have been objectionable about some of them (racist undertones and moral complacency, etc etc.)

  31. Dan, I can agree with all of that. And I went back and read Vern’s review and think he makes a pretty strong case for why the story is more complex than I’m giving it credit for. It at least says something about Clint’s minimalist direction that we can all come to fairly drastic differences in opinion on the movie, but none of us are really incorrect. It depends on what the viewer brings to the experience I guess. And as a screenwriter maybe I was simply pissed off when the first thing the script does is give me a bio of the protagonist and his projected character arc in dialogue. From there, I couldn’t help but notice laziness all over the place.

  32. Gwai,

    I think you’ve made a great case for why you didn’t like the movie, and you have many point I simply can’t disagree with. There are some truly poorly-written, on-the-nose moments in that film.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call Eastwood’s approach minimalist. Think about those extreme close-ups of Walt giving his family the death stare at the funeral, nothing subtle about that. And there’s some extreme manipulation/button-pushing going on in MYSTIC RIVER and CHANGELING (effectively so). But his style can be a lot more laid back and old fashioned in places than many directors these days.

  33. Well what would a Clint Eastwood vehicle be without extreme close-up death stares? A waste of a perfectly good Clint Eastwood, that’s what. You’re right about the barber shop scene. That was very well done. I also liked the scene where he started fixing appliances at Tao’s BBQ. More subtle scenes like that would have been great. Even my most hated scene in the movie, the thuggish black guys harassing the nerdy Asian girl and her wigger boyfriend (so many cliches that my head just about exploded SCANNERS style), is immediately followed by that great scene of Clint showing up and saving the day it the most badass way imaginable.

  34. Obviously this Lazarus is NOT the same guy who regularly posts stuff like the following on Hollywood Elsewhere and The Hot Blog:

    lazarus says …

    “Eastwood does not deserve to make a film with a title already taken by his superior Otto Preminger, let alone one adapted from a Graham Greene book by the same name. Why not just call it Oscar Bait?”

    and

    “I guess all the Eastwood-worshipping drones are still sleeping. If there’s a more overrated filmmaker working today, I don’t know who it is.”

    Unless he’s done a complete about-face, this guy must be his alternate universe twin.

    Also, I like Vern’s policy on people who call each other names. Differentiates this place from just about everywhere else on this world wide websicle.

  35. I don’t think Eastwood’s style is minimalistic, its just a very classic hollywood style. It looks minimalistic compared to these whippersnappers these days with their speed-up-slow-down shakeycam cross cut money shot nonsense. He tends to make quiet, slow films with longish, lovely takes, gentle camera movement, and a strait forward narrative. He has kind of moved towards minimalism in the music recently, though, which is kind of odd but differentiates his work from most of the older Hollywood classicists and gives it a kind of quiet, 70s vibe.

    and Dan, I do think GRAN TORINO presents a great Clint character and, as you might expect from an Eastwood film, does contain some great nuanced moments (mostly a result of performance and direction rather than script) and some light postmodern playfulness. The script wasn’t quite enough to sustain it, unfortunately.

  36. Mr. S – I totally fucking completely disagree with you on the script.

    I mean what more did you want?

    BTW, did you all realize that Eastwood is fluent in Italian?

  37. I really don’t remember the black guys trying to rape the girl in that scene. I just remember them being obnoxious and intimidating, but maybe that’s still the same thing you have a problem with. I mostly just remember laughing when Walt called the kid a pussy. Different wavelengths I guess.

    It certainly is a cheeseball melodrama, I’ll agree with you on that point, but it ain’t CRASH. CRASH would not be able to exist without telling you how important and meaningful it is every five minutes. Take away any notions of race and it’s nothing. Take away any race elements from GRAN TORINO, and you still have a fun cranky old guy movie.

    Of course, I live in a small midwestern city where people drink a lot of Pabst, smoke a lot of cigarettes, and the Hmong community represent the largest minority. I know a lot of Walts, is what I’m saying.

  38. Chopper,

    That’s more my take on the scene with the black kids, too. But, although I don’t agree, I think I see Gwai’s point. Attempted rape or not, it’s still yet another depiction of young black males as threatening criminal types. My guess is Gwai’s question to Eastwood would be, why did you cast black teens? Why not a bunch of white kids or something?

    And of course, I would answer that according to wikipedia, that area’s population is overwhelmingly black, so it makes sense. Also it fits in with the film’s tension when races mix motif, i.e. Walt may not have acted in such an intense fashion if it had been a group of asians or whites bothering Soo.

    Still, I can understand why someone might not be cool with the kids’ depiction.

  39. I was actually always surprised at how much reviewers dwelled on the racist words and remarks in Gran Torino. To me it became pretty clear pretty early on that this character would just use whatever he could to poke at you and it was just a test to see if you’d react. If you were a different race he’d say racist things, if you were younger he’d treat you like a stupid kid, etc. These types of guys just want to see if you’re thick-skinned.

    I sorta thought everybody had known a couple of guys like this in their lives but the way people talk about this movie, I guess not. This guy wasn’t a racist and I don’t consider it a movie about learning to not be a racist.

  40. Wolfie — while Walt is obvious a complicated character who is well aware of the way his use of racial slurs etc affects other people, I’m not sure I would say the movie has nothing to do with race. The structure continually puts him in situations which complicate racial relationships and a the very least deepen his understanding of other races/cultures/people. I think the movie presents him as a guy who probably doesn’t think of himself as a racist (a you say, he uses his racial language to tweak people the same way he does with everyone in his life) but probably is a little more xeophobic or at least indulgent in stereotypes than he’d like to imagine. Hence, the movie is to some degree about him learning a little more about other races etc. Not that that’s a bad thing, and you’re probably right that it gets perhaps and unwarrented amount of attention, but I think its an inescapable fact of the story.

    RRA – well, I don’t want to harp on poor GRAN TORINO too much, but I just felt the story was a pretty by-the-numbes melodrama with some spots of weak writing (some of which Gwai Lo eloquently points out, above). If it didn’t have Clint at its center, I can’t imagine I’d possibly be interested based on the screenplay. As it is, it struck me as a grea performance in search of a more interesting story. But I’m glad to know you and a bunch of other folks liked it — as long as the guy keep making movies, I’ll watch ’em. I bet he’s got one more real home run in him.

  41. Allow me to say that Cedar Room is right on the money, but that’s exactly why the trailer (the film isn’t out here yet in the UK until next month) alone brought me to tears. I’m South African Indian, born there but raised overseas as my parents had to flee the country in 1971 after being threatened by BOSS, the security thugs – my dad’s an Anglican priest who was both anti-apartheid and pro-trade-union, and he preached in favour of both and against the regime. My entire life has taken place overseas away from the majority of my extended family, all of whom I love when I get to meet them (my dad was banned from entry until the 90s), but with whom I realistically don’t have much in common. I’ve seen people work themselves to the bone, both in SA and in Europe, to bring about the kind of change Mandela instigated, and for everything that has not worked since then and still doesn’t work now (the health system, corruption, remaining white/black/Indian/Coloured issues with the older generations), the giant leaps he took to make things progress, even slowly, at other levels in society – how does a man who suffered so much have the magnanimity to do that himself? I’ve been a Freeman fan since Glory, but god he’s coasted for a decade or so now, so I cannot wait to see him take this on. Clint? I’ve been a fan since I can remember, and how he wants to tell this story is fine by me, especially if he’s making it a parable for the US now. I’m excited to see it, even when it hurts to know how far SA has come and still not quite got there, because if anyone can mythologise the harsh realities we all lived through, residents and ex-patriates alike, it’s the man who is a legend in his own lifetime, and has redefined more than one cinematic genre to boot.

  42. Gwai Lo – Some of your criticisms could be used for most Eastwood movies, no?

    He’s never been a flashy auteur. Simple, to the point (maybe too on the nose for some), and no bullshit. He really is Sam Fuller’s successor in that aspect.

    Hell remember HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER? Not exactly subtle in telling us the real deal behind this stranger fellow.

    GRAN TORINO at heart is a western, and thats why it works. Hell you could remake that script in the Old West, just change settings, technology, and ethnicities. Liberals and NeoCons both miss the fucking point of the movie. Ole Wally is a racist asshole, but certainly he displayed a basic decent humanity underneath that exterior of anger at the world, his family, and most of all himself. It doesn’t expunge or redeem his views, and I like that. This shit aint CRASH.

    As for INVICTUS, finally got around to seeing it…and it was a solid respectable film. I think to repeat what others already said, Eastwood I suppose got the urge to tell a genuinely feel-good story of possibility and change for the better. I mean why else would the conservative/libertarian Eastwood work with the outspoken liberal* Damon?

    Reminded too of VICTORY, that football movie virtual remake of GREAT ESCAPE made by John Huston, fellow no bullshit fellow and cited hero of Eastwood. Like INVICTUS, not one of Huston’s better pictures but it works simultaneously on the two thematic filmatic goals he was gunning for.

    *=Remember Damon’s (humorous) ranting about Palin? Compare that to Eastwood shocking an audience around that same time by saying he was a fan of hers. I bet political discussions get awkward on the set, but not enough I guess since Damon got casted for Clint’s ghost movie.

  43. Do you actually know anything about rugby or are you among the 99.9 per cent of the movie’s viewers Eastwood knew would be so clueless about it that he could distort the story any way he wanted? This is total Hollywood BS. It’s a feel-good con. Eastwood’s played fast and loose with the facts both on and off the sports field. No mention of the fact most of the ABs were hit by a virus the day before the final, with some of them vomiting on the field and obviously too sick to be on the field. No mention that France clearly scored a late try against SA in the semis which would have knocked the Springboks out of the competition — except that the Welsh referee inexplicably ruled the try out. Also no mention of the fact that the SA rugby president later gave the same referee a mega-expensive gold watch for his kindness. Hmmm funny that, and also funny that Eastwood omitted it from tale. The movie is presented as an uplifting story of hope for the future but to justify that approach SA would have needed to go on to become a truly unified land in the years since that rugby final. So what’s it like in ‘the rainbow nation’ 15 years on? The country is one of the most corrupt in the world, has the highest incidence of HIV in the world and is also a leader in both child and baby rape and seriously violent crime. The middle-class whites live in their own razor wire-enclosed high-security enclaves, while many of the black people continue to live a BELOW dirt-poor existence in appalling shacks, with neither jobs nor hope. More than a million whites have fled abroad rather than live in a land where the (black) majority rules. These are facts, not concocted fantasy as in so much of this movie whose message of hope is a sham and a fraud because it has never come close to being realised. Don’t leave the theaters with sprits uplifted after watching this because it’s just a sugar-coated Hollywood fairytale which bears little resemblance to the true story.

  44. To answer your question, I don’t know a god damn thing about rugby, so I guess I would have to say that I am “among the 99.9 per cent of the movie’s viewers Eastwood knew would be so clueless about it that he could distort the story any way he wanted.” If those are the only two choices.

    You make some interesting points, Richard, but I have to ask: who’s your favorite rugby team?

  45. With Eastwood getting back in the news I figured it would be good to give this a watch to remind myself that anyone who could make this movie isn’t a hateful asshole. It worked, I was afraid this would be just another inspirational sports movie, and technically it is, but making Mandella the lead character and addition of the political turmoil really elevated this one above it’s fellow ilk. Thanks to the marketing I honestly thought Damon was the lead character with Freeman as a support so very happy that was not the case. Enjoyed it way more than I thought I would and I left it feeling that we can work together and Eastwood is just having one of his many old white man moments (doesn’t fully forgive some of the comments of coarse).

  46. Love this movie, and its message is really needed in today’s political haze.

    Same goes for the poem in which it gets its title.

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