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Clint Eastwood is indeed one of our greatest living filmmakers, something that he proves time and again with each passing film. Sure, he has made some less than inspired films earlier in has directing career, but then again, he occasionally had to bite the bullet and make "studio pictures" to get funding for his more personal projects. With the acclaim and the Oscars that ultimately came to Eastwood, the director found himself in the position where he could pick and chose the projects that interested him the most, and was finally able to only make the kind of films that he wanted to see. Over the years, Eastwood has demonstrated the uncanny knack of selecting terrific, and sometimes-unexpected projects, which showcased his filmmaking know-how. This of course, demonstrated that the films that Eastwood wanted to make and see were also the films that critics and audiences wanted to see.

This brings us to Eastwood’s latest film, INVICTUS ($36), which I found to be something of an unexpected story choice from the seasoned director. Personally, I would never thought I would be sitting through what is essentially an uplifting sports movie baring the credit- directed by Clint Eastwood. Of course, I would imagine it is the larger political, racial and human ramifications of the story that attracted Eastwood to the project. Set in South Africa, INVICTUS whisks the audience through 1990’s release of Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) from Robben Island prison to his assuming of the presidency in 1994. As President, Mandela puts the country’s apartheid past behind him, and seeks peaceful unification of both black and white South Africans, and thus, allowing the nation to heal. Determined to do what is in the best interest of the country, Mandela immediately retains the services of existing white government employees, which includes adding whites to his own security detail.

Even with the steps he had taken; racial tensions within the country remain. This tension is exemplified by newly black-dominated South African Sports Committee’s decision to do away with the name and colors of the Springboks, the country's rugby union team. As South Africa is set to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup in one year's time, Mandela views this decision as a mistake that would further divide whites from blacks. When Mandela steps in personally, the committee reverses their previous decision, and reinstates Springboks, which paves the way for the team to become a symbol of South African unity. Meeting with the captain of the Springboks rugby team, François Pienaar (Matt Damon), Mandela expresses his support for the team and hopes for next year’s Rugby World Cup. The meeting ultimately leads to the Springboks reaching out to the locals and teaching the game of rugby to black South African children. Over the course of time, the game of rugby does begin to unite the nation, especially as the Springboks are poised to represent South Africa in the World Cup.

Like Eastwood’s other body of work, INVICTUS is carefully crafted film, which hits all of the right marks, without flash and absolutely zero fat- Eastwood is a director who understands that less is more, which always succeeds because his work is never pedestrian. Additionally, Eastwood always casts the right actors in key roles, and with INVICTUS, Freeman and Damon deliver the goods- providing thoughtful performances that earned each an Academy Award nomination. The cast of INVICTUS also features Adjoa Andoh, Tony Kgoroge, Julian Lewis Jones, Patrick Mofokeng, Matt Stern, Marguerite Wheatley, Leleti Khumalo, McNiel Hendriks, Scott Eastwood, Zak Feaunati, Grant L. Roberts, Rolf E. Fitschen, Vaughn Thompson, Charl Engelbrecht, Graham Lindemann and Sean Michael.

Warner Home Video has made INVICTUS available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. INVICTUS comes with a very strong 1080p presentation that is free from any glaring flaws. For the most part, Tom Stern’s cinematography is naturalistic, although there is a slight push on the contrast that adds a mild harshness, which keeps the picture from becoming too pretty. Overall, the image is very sharp, highly defined and quite dimensional. Fine detail and texturing are also well represented. Colors are a little cool and are rendered at a realistic level of saturation. Blacks appear deep, while the whites are clean. As I stated earlier, contrast has been given a little push, while the image also delivers a strong level of shadow detail. The elements from which INVICTUS has been transferred appear free of flaws. Grain is noticeable during the presentation, but isn’t intrusive.

INVICTUS is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This is a soundtrack that serves two masters, and serves both quite well. Quiet talky passages are nuanced and atmospheric, which makes the audience feel that they are in the room with the speaker, while the boisterous ruby games also make excellent use of the outlying channels for immersive sound effects placement. The lossless encode lends full-bodied musicality to the score and makes the sound effects seem quite convincing. As for the bass channel, it gets the job done without becoming overblown. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue is totally understandable. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a few extras. Starting things off is a Bonus View picture-in-picture Video Track entitled Vision, Courage And Honor that features cast & crew interviews, plus behind the scenes footage (requires a Profile 1.1 player). Featurettes and other programs include: Mandela Meets Morgan (twenty eight minutes), Matt Damon Plays Rugby (seven minutes), The Eastwood Factor (twenty two minutes) and Invictus Music Trailer (three minutes). INVICTUS is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

INVICTUS is another great motion picture in the filmography of director Clint Eastwood. While not quite a demo disc, the Blu-ray presentation of INVICTUS is still quite excellent. Recommended.



Invictus (Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy) (2009)


DVD & Blu-ray Disc reviews are Copyright © 2010 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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