Morgan Freeman is absolutely stunning in the role of Mandela. I could never have believed that this man, whom I have seen in such different roles, could step into the skin of Mandela so completely, but he did. (He has just been nominated for a Golden Globe for this role.) And Matt Damon, as usual, had a perfect South African accent and played the captain of the rugby team, Francois Pienaar, perfectly. I learned that Damon bulked up for the part (boy did he; bulging muscles galore) and had to have a stand-in for most of the really grueling scenes. My favorite review of the movie came from the New York Times and I'm giving it to you here. When I read this review I just had to see the movie.
This is a true story about a man who is still living, who spent several decades in a tiny prison cell (which is actually shown in the movie) and came out of it willing to forgive his jailers and be the great South African president. Clint Eastwood directs it, and he shows how brutal both apartheid and rugby really are. I can still hear and see the rugby scenes in my imagination, a game which I simply don't understand, but I can sure see why it's the main sport of many countries.
And the movie is also about two important things: forgiveness and willingness to change in the face of adversity. The events that happened in this movie are all real, except I learned that Mandela actually didn't give the poem to Francois, but instead an extract from Theodore Roosevelt's speech "Man in the Arena" from 1910. I can see why Eastwood decided to use the poem instead, since it really summarizes Mandela's journey:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,The movie is also based on a book written by John Carlin, Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation. Of course now I will get the book and read it. If you want to see an uplifting movie with quite a bit of grunting and gasping that has nothing to do with sex, go see it. I'd love to know what you think of this movie. I would give it an A+.
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.