A host of rugby stars lined up to pan this film. They obviously did not realize that it is *not* about rugby: the rugby is purely incidental and a vehicle to tell the real story. It is about how a man, an extraordinary man, used the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa to unite a country. It is a truly epic story, capped by a magnificent performance by Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. It is a story of how hate, bigotry and prejudice on both sides were overcome and how a rugby team helped forge a nation.
Throughout the film Morgan Freeman's head is spliced onto Nelson Mandela's head in archive footage to maintain the sense of reality. At the end though, we get a long series of genuine images from the 1995 World Cup of the players and their jubilant President, wearing his South Africa Springboks shirt and cap, with their symbols of apartheid. These images are a small treat to allow you to compare some of the incidents portrayed in the film with how they actually did happen in real life.
If you take the trouble to look through the credits, you will also see that the real Chester Williams (played in the film by McNeil Hendricks) who, with François Pienaar, are the two main protagonists from the team who are portrayed throughout the film, acted as coach to the actors.
This is a wonderful film and, so soon after the death of Nelson Mandela, it is a reminder of what a difficult job he was faced with on becoming President and the remarkable way that he faced it and, largely, succeeded in it.
The film is an excellent adaptation of the book by John Carlin. Clint Eastwood captures the spirit of the book beautifully.
There are a couple of annoying minor things where false tension is created unnecessarily. At the start of the film the scene of the minivan delivering the morning newspapers is a little overplayed: after all that buildup you rather expect half a dozen hooded Libyan gunmen to leap out of it, rather than a man with a bundle of newspapers. And the overflight of SAA 747 over the stadium was planned well in advance (Clint, you've been reading too much Tom Clancy), but these are trivial things and should not detract from your enjoyment of the story.