In 1990, Nelson Mandela(Morgan Freeman) is released from Robben Island prison. Within a short time after his release, Mandela wins the elections to become the first black president of South Africa. When he comes to power, he also realizes that his countrymen has not forgiven years of being apart and subsequent hatred generated because of it. Uniting the country by forgiving the old enmity will be his biggest challenge.
When Mandela attends a game of Springboks - the national rugby team, he observes that the black citizens are still cheering against the Springboks. Sadly, this is what Mandela used to do during his imprisonment at Robben Island. He also senses an opportunity to unite the nation using this game. So, when the newly formed sports committee decides to dismantle Springboks, Mandela pleads and convinces the majority to vote against it.
Mandela then arranges a meeting with Francois Pienaar(Matt Damon), the captain of Springboks team. During this meeting, Francois understands that Mandela wants to win the 1995 Rugby Word Cup which will be hosted in South Africa. Francois is motivated. But the country and his team members are not. How Mandela and Francois changes the attitudes of their fellow countrymen forms the rest of the story.
Clint Eastwood directs this inspirational sports drama based on a novel named “Playing the Enemy” by George Carlin. The initial half of the movie is impressive as Mandela slowly convinces the key players. The second half fizzles out as the change in the entire nation happens too abruptly. Clint tells a story of uniting mankind with sports. But, the movie lacks impact as it tries to be multiple things – drama, inspiration, sports – and hence does not have the intended effect.
The backbone of the movie is the performances of Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. But unfortunately, the actors have done similar roles in the past. So, they end up being right for the roles.
Perfect for a Friday evening watch on DVD.