Clint Eastwood is a master at taking a story and making it personal. The grand themes of white versus black, rich versus poor, future versus past are all distilled into three very personal stories in “Invictus.” During the final rugby game in the film, the tension rises and rises. You feel the audience in the cinema craving a release. Eastwood provides this release four times: He cuts deftly to a young black kid desperately trying to listen to the game on a white police radio outside the stadium. In each cut the kid advances further into the scene, and in doing so we feel black South African advancing toward the white world — and we get the release of a laugh. It takes a master storyteller to know when to allow us the smallest of details in an epic tale and when to allow an audience to “lean in.”
During the rugby matches, Eastwood places the camera at game level. We feel every bump, every bone crack and the heart stopping speed of it all. The matches are like beautifully choreographed ballets. The rate of new ideas, the characters he has developed and the camera are all choreographed to perfection by a grand master of the dance.
Eastwood is a director who clearly knows and likes actors. He allows us to observe a scene without pushing or attacking the audience with fast cuts or overembellished performances. The story simply unfolds. The camera watches and so do we.
“Unify and inspire” was Nelson Mandela’s goal in 1994 when he took over as president of South Africa. “Unify and inspire” is what Clint Eastwood does every time he steps behind the camera and shouts “action.”
Warren Carlyle directed the current Broadway revival of “Finian’s Rainbow.”