Let me just say this right now and get it out of the way: I am a huge Clint Eastwood fan. Some of the most powerful things I have ever seen on film are products of Eastwood's mind and vision and anything with his name on it will get me into the theater. That being said, with the release of the Invictus trailer yesterday, and the overwhelming Best Picture predictions from bloggers around the web, I am very excited for his upcoming film.

However, at this point, I am not yet as convinced as most people are that the film will open up to overwhelming critical acclaim. I do not think the problem will be with the performances. Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon are very reliable actors and they looked good enough in the trailer to carry a good script if they in fact have a good script.

I think the problem is simply in the story. I am fine with the fact that it is focusing on one aspect of Mandela's life rather than try to be an epic biopic attempt, but I'm not sure if this film will connect with audiences. My favorite Clint Eastwood films of the decade -- Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino -- are all fiction stories with elements that most people can relate to. Their stories might not be the most original thing in the world, but in each film Eastwood and his other performers do such a good job of transcending used material into something beautiful and memorable. I am not getting the same vibe from Invictus.

Although I thorougly enjoyed Eastwood's other 2008 effort Changeling, it is a film that garnered mixed response from critics. As opposed to the films mentioned in the previous paragraph, Changeling, like Invictus, is a true story. There is not much audiences can relate to there. Sure, many parents worry about losing their kids, but none of them have come even close to what Christine Collins had to go through. Similarly with Invictus, I'm not sure audiences will connect with the rugby sport. Even though the sport might be irrelevant because the film's theme is about a nation coming together, I have a sneaking suspicion that audiences could be looking at the film's climax in a rugby game and just not feel much.

Obviously these are very premature comments, and I haven't read one official review on the film yet. However, I have read an L.A. Times article in which some of the web's top Oscar prognosticators all believe Invictus will receive a Best Picture nomination. While their opinion does have considerable merit, do not count me among those in agreement just yet.


julianstark said...

I think that Invictus has more going for it in Changeling ever did.

One of the aspects of Changeling that may have hurt it is the story itself. I for one had never even heard of Christine Collins before the trailer for that film came out. However, take Nelson Mandela and everyone at least has some idea of who he is.

Still, I am slowly but surely starting to agree that the film may not be a 100% lock for a Picture nomination...

Danny King said...

@ julianstark: I hadn't heard of the story either, but it is a fascinating one. There are similarities of that fault in Invictus' premise however because I'm sure if most people heard a movie about Nelson Mandela was coming out, they wouldn't necessarily think of rugby at all.

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