Yesterday, anti-apartheid activist and internationally celebrated world leader Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95. His death came at about the same time the newest film about his life was released: "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." It stars Idris Elba and focuses on the first half of his live. In 2009, another film about his life, "Invictus," was released. While the former is still in limited release, "Invictus" is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
"Invictus" stars Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, and it focuses on the later part of his life, when he was president of South Africa. It is set in the 1990s during the first few years after apartheid. Mandela's aspirations included uniting the blacks and whites of South Africa. Recognizing how united people can become when a common athletic goal is before them, he encourages all South Africans to root for the nation's rugby team: the Springboks. Most black people of the country hate the team as they see it as a painful symbol of past rule, and, to make matters worse, their recent record is not very strong. By convincing the team and its captain (played by Matt Damon) that their success can be a key part of moving South Africa forward, Mandela lays the groundwork for an inspirational sports match-up.
Morgan Freeman is perfect as Nelson Mandela. It is hard to imagine anyone else playing him (as an older man). Matt Damon is also strong. His performance is understated, but important as we see how one white South African and his family come to appreciate and respect the integrity of their new president, a man they once feared. The film captures the South Africa environs of the 1990s well, and both actors do a good job speaking with an African accent. They both earned Academy Award nominations.
Watching "Invictus" is a good way to honor Nelson Mandela.