Invictus (Latin for ‘unconquered’) is based on real events in post-apartheid South Africa. Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman), South Africa’s first democratically elected president, is facing post-apartheid crises between black and white South Africans.
Mandela decides that one way of bringing South Africans together is by embracing the country’s national rugby team, the Springboks. The team is worshipped by white South Africans, but despised by black South Africans as a symbol of apartheid. Through rugby’s World Cup, Mandela hopes to win the allegiance of white South Africans and provide hope and inspiration to black South Africans. He wants also to showcase the new South Africa to the world. Unfortunately, the Springboks have been performing badly and are in no shape to get past the first round of the World Cup.
To further his cause, Precedent Mandela enlists the help of the Springboks’ captain, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon).
Sport; apartheid; racism
This movie includes news images of rioting and on-field sports violence, as well other violent scenes. For example:
- There is news footage of black South Africans rioting in the streets. They carry machetes and set houses and buildings on fire. A person lies either unconscious or dead in the street. Characters comment on the prospect of civil war breaking out.
- Characters refer to white South Africans coming out of the womb with guns in their hands.
- Several scenes show rough rugby tackling. We see players crashing into other players and knocking them to the ground. Players have cuts and bruises to their faces, arms and legs.
- During a World Cup match, there are some minor fights and several scuffles involving most of the players from both teams.
- A young black South African boy refuses a Springboks jersey because other children will beat him up if he wears it.
- Members of the Springboks rugby team angrily hurl cans of beer at a wall after losing a match.
- Pienaar tells his teammates that ‘I will break my arm, my leg, my neck before letting another player pass’.
Content that may disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie includes some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight. For example:
- Mandela lies unconscious on the ground. He has collapsed from exhaustion.
- Flashback images show Mandela in prison doing hard labour, breaking boulders with a pick. We hear how Mandela spent 27 years in a tiny prison cell. We are also told that his family was dragged out of their home by South African police.
- The All Blacks rugby team do a Haka to intimidate their opponents.
Some children in this age group could also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.
Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.
None of concern
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie includes some use of substances. For example:
- Various groups of people at home and in bars drink beer while watching rugby. There is no drunk behaviour shown.
- In a change room scene, every member of the Springboks rugby team gets a can of beer. Team members make negative comments about the taste of the beer and hurl the full cans against the change room wall.
- Springboks players play a drinking game that involves singing a song followed by sculling a drink.
Nudity and sexual activity
This movie includes some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- While Pienaar is staying in a hotel, his wife enters his room and kisses him. They kiss passionately and fall back onto the bed.
- Mandela dances and flirts with a woman at a party, commenting on her attractiveness.
- Women wear low-cut tops that reveal their cleavage.
The following products are displayed or used in this movie: various brands of beer (shown on large sponsorship signs at the sports stadium, Coke and other soft drinks.
This movie contains coarse language and name-calling.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Invictus is a historical drama suited to an audience 12 years and older. It is thought-provoking and entertaining, but lacks interest for younger viewers. The movie’s two lead actors, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, give strong and believable performances.
The main messages from this movie are that:
- Forgiveness liberates the soul.
- Inspiration is the key to nation-building and exceeding personal expectations.
- The real enemy is prejudice and an unforgiving spirit.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include forgiveness, reconciliation and self-sacrifice. For example, rather than seeking revenge against the white South Africans who imprisoned him, Mandela tells black South Africans to throw their weapons into the sea. Also, Mandela makes many sacrifices for his country. He works long hours to the point of exhaustion, risks his personal safety by making himself available to the public, and donates one third of his salary to charity.