Invictus

  • Review Date: December 7, 2009
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 133 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Inspiring tale about Mandela, rugby, and national pride.
  • Review Date: December 7, 2009
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 133 minutes

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie has an uplifting message about how Mandela led South Africans by example by rooting for a nearly all-white rugby team to foster national unity. Mandela's love of the poem "Invictus," which he had up in his prison cell and later gives to the captain of the rugby team, means "unconquered" in Latin and has an inspiring message: "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."

Positive role models

Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela is portrayed as a kind, open-hearted leader who wants to help South Africa heal the deep wounds caused by apartheid. Mandela understands how the rugby team, once a bastion of segregated South Africa, could turn into a beacon of new South Africa. Francois Pienaar is willing to work with Mandela, even at a time when many white South Africans were resistant to Mandela's leadership. He encourages his teammates to acknowledge the new South African anthem and to reach out to the black majority.

Violence

Rugby is a pretty violent sport, but otherwise, there's no conventional violence except for when an angry white South African throws a soda cup in the vicinity of President Mandela. In another scene, Mandela is shown collapsed on the floor.

Sex

Francois kisses and hugs his wife a couple of times, and the night she visits him before a big match, he says they "can't" but that he needs her for "inspiration," and then they start kissing. A presidential guard flirts with Mandela's secretary.

Language

The rugby team occasionally swears (though considerably less than you'd imagine professional athletes cursing) -- one "f--king" and a couple of "s--t"s is the worst of it. Otherwise, the strongest words are "bastard," "freakin'," "crap," and "damn."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this fact-based Clint Eastwood-directed drama (which stars Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman) is an uplifting movie that's age appropriate for older tweens and young teens -- the PG-13 rating is primarily for language (one use of "f--king" and a couple of "s--t"s are the worst of it). Because of its narrow focus -- the movie follows President Nelson Mandela's decision to rally support behind South Africa's nearly all-white national rugby team -- there's no violence except for the rugby itself (which is quite physically aggressive). And Damon's character kisses his wife, but there's nothing more risque than that. Ultimately the movie is both educational and inspiring, providing an excellent lesson about post-apartheid South Africa, national unity, and the universality of sports.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

INVICTUS is Clint Eastwood's chronicle of how newly elected South African President Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) decided to champion national rugby, despite the fact that the nearly all-Afrikaans team was considered a bastion of apartheid. Although most South African blacks hated the Springbok team, Mandela befriends captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) and encourages him to win, so South Africans -- white and black -- will have something positive to rally around together. As the rugby team begins to succeed, Mandela lobbies to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, and the country does indeed bond over the sport.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Inspirational sports movies have a tendency to be full of overwrought dialogue and sappy, swelling music accompanying the athletic competition. Eastwood's genius is that even though there's enough of both here (including dramatic recitations of the titular poem, which means "unconquered"), the film never feels bogged down by sentimentality. Instead, Freeman is a revelation as Mandela. It's difficult to imagine any other actor playing the iconic leader, and Freeman doesn't disappoint. With every nod, walk, and smile, Freeman fully transforms into the Nobel Peace Prize winner -- his lovingly executed performance is reason enough to see this historically accurate film. Damon packed on muscle to play the barrel-chested Francois, although he couldn't do anything to approach the real Pienaar's considerable height. Most American audiences won't know whether Damon nailed the South African accent, but at least it stays consistent, as do his rugby moves, for which Damon trained extensively.

There's not much scene-stealing from Damon; he seems content to let Freeman and the game of rugby set the tone. One particularly memorable scene shows how the players react to Francois handing out the words to the new South African anthem (one of them calls it a "terrorist song," and several crumple up the paper). And despite the movie's serious themes, there's a surprising amount of humor, usually in the form of Mandela's integrated personal security force -- the black guards don't even know how to follow rugby: "What just happened?" one asks, "They scored!" says a white guard. The black and white guards are wary of each other at first, but by the end of the movie, they're all playing rugby and picking on each other. No doubt it took more than rugby to overcome the deep fissures caused by apartheid in South Africa (if they've been overcome at all), but in this movie, love of rugby and of a new nation go beautifully hand in hand.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's themes of national unity and desegregation. Why does Mandela decide to save the rugby team? What does the rugby team represent to black South Africans at the beginning of the film, and how does that change throughout the movie?

  • What do Pienaar's rugby teammates mean when they that say the new national anthem is a "terrorist song"? What does the movie teach viewers about the history of South Africa?

  • The poem "Invictus" is referenced and read more than once in the movie. What do you think the poem means, and why does Mandela give it to Pienaar?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 11, 2009
DVD release date:May 18, 2010
Cast:Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman, Tony Kgoroge
Director:Clint Eastwood
Studio:Warner Bros.
Genre:Drama
Run time:133 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:brief strong language

This review of Invictus was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 12 years old September 16, 2010
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

Encouraging Movie

I really liked this movie because, it showed how the players went into the poor neighborhood and taught the poor children of Africa how to play rugby. After people seeing the rugby team help the poor, and become connected with one another. That was the beginning of unity in Africa no matter whether they were white or African.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written bybconrad December 26, 2009
AGE
10
QUALITY
 

very inspiring, exceptional movie

Really inspiring movie, best understood by kids if you give them a little background information on South Africa before going. You couldn't ask for a better role model than Nelson Mandela in this movie. What a wise and inspiring person.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written bydillthecat January 7, 2010
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

Leadership, compassion, forgiveness... and testosterone-laden rugby

This is an uplifting movie and an inspiring performance by Morgan Freeman. It shows a narrow slice of history, but its message of compassion and forgiveness is very powerful. The rugby scenes were a little too testosterone-driven for my taste, but I don't see how they could have been omitted or done differently.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models

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