Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman), in his first term as President of South African, initiates a unique venture to unite the Apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
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Disgruntled Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) sets out to reform his neighbor, Thao Lor (Bee Vang), a Hmong teenager who tried to steal Kowalski's prized possession: a 1972 Gran Torino.
This movie tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) joined forces with the Captain of South Africa's rugby team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to help unite their country. Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of Apartheid. Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa's rugby team as they make their historic run to the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship match.Written by
Nelson Mandela's personal assistant, Zelda La Grange, apparently asked Morgan Freeman to stop walking like Mandela, so that she could tell the difference between the two. See more »
Nelson Mandela and others are seen repeatedly wearing coat-of-arms badges. The design they wear wasn't introduced until 2000. See more »
High School Boy:
[seeing passing motorcade]
Who is it, sir?
High School Coach:
It's the terrorist Mandela, they let him out. Remember this day boys, this is the day our country went to the dogs.
See more »
During the first part of the end credits, pictures are shown of the real life characters that were portrayed in the movie. Those images are then followed by a scene of South African kids playing rugby. See more »
People forget that Nelson Mandela came to power at a time when his country was bitterly divided. There was the bitter experience that white South Africans saw in their neighboring countries,i.e., Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and other nations where the White colonialist had been replaced by Black African politicians and a stable government had been replaced by corrupt, self-serving regimes where those in power feathered their nests after seizing the assets of their former White citizens and placed all their friends in positions of authority with the result of the country going to the dogs. The scene where the Afrikaaner newspaper remarks, "Mendela can get elected but can he run a country," and the superb Morgan Freeman remarks to his bodyguard that the headline raises a good point.
In a sense, this film is about Mandela. The rugby team becomes a metaphor of what he faced when ascending to the presidency, a nation divided. Noting that the Black South Africans were cheering for the opposition in the face of the old Apartheid guard whose love of rugby unified them. It's easy to forget that there was a great division among White South Africans, i.e., the descendants of the Boers, Afrikaaners, and the rest. There was even a middle ground with the "Coloreds," Asian South Africans, being caught between these two worlds and there were bitter rivalries among the competing African political interest groups as well.
Mandela's focus on reviving the national rugby team and making it a symbol of a new united nation homes in on the role of Matt Damon, an Afrikaaner who's the captain of the team. Francois is the catalyst that makes this story work and Damon, the rugged Mick from Boston, does a fantastic job showing the transition from hopelessness to hope as many White South Africans felt at that time. The wonderful thing about this film is its touching on all the levels. It goes beyond being merely the story of a single man or group of men. Sure, we love a "feel good" movie and of course we love an "underdog can win" flick, but this film works works because its about people working together to rebuild something new for everybody.
The film reeks with great moments: Pienaar visiting the cell where Mandela spent more than 20 years of his life, thinking and planning; The New Zealand Rugby team doing their Maori threat dance before the match; the jet buzzing the field before the game-- and so on. See it. Enjoy it. And, don't forget, it's a bit of history. Romanticized? Somewhat. Mandela wasn't able to solve all of South Africa's big problems, but he did one bang-up job for the Springboks.
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