Complete A-Z list



Stars: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Adjoa Andoh, Matt Stern

Director: Clint Eastwood

Freeman was always the obvious choice to play Nelson Mandela on screen, and he gives a sympathetic and winning performance in this look at the early years of Mandela's presidency, culminating in South Africa's hosting of the rugby world cup in 1995.

White members of the outgoing presidential staff expect Mandela to dismiss them out of hand. To their surprise, he asks them to stay: a first step towards fulfilling his ambition of 'a rainbow nation'. He also finds a convert in the form of Fran├žois Pienaar (Damon), the captain of the nation's under-achieving rugby team.

Perhaps subsequent events, black-white friendships and the rugby team's tour of shanty towns, whipping up enthusiasm for the game, are rather viewed through rose-coloured glasses, with the president's problems with his wife and children shunted into the background. But the film does achieve its aim of affecting our emotions, even if it's never quite the resounding social document its director probably intended.

Freeman's accent is less convincing then Damon's, but the rugby itself is remarkably well re-created, although it is allowed to go on a bit too long towards the end.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Warner Brothers. Technicolor.
133 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 31 Jan 2010