It’s been called, at various times, Playing The Enemy or The Human Factor or even the catchy Untitled Clint Eastwood Nelson Mandela Project, but at long last Eastwood’s latest piece of Oscar bait has an official title: Invictus.

The decidedly non-commercial moniker is taken from one of Mandela’s favourite poems, by William Ernest Henley. With lines like “I thank whatever gods may be/for my unconquerable soul,” it’s easy to see why Mandela was drawn to it.

Invictus, of course, stars Morgan Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby union team at the 1995 World Cup, an event of enormous importance for the newly-elected South African President, who saw it as an opportunity to heal South Africa’s reputation and internal strife.

If you think that all sounds very Oscar-friendly, Warner Bros. agrees. They’ve just scheduled the movie for release on December 11, which puts it slap bang in the middle of the Oscar season. It’s also up against Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones, but we’re not entirely sure whether the two films will be competing for the same audience.

But it’s now becoming something of a tradition for an Eastwood film to launch in the middle of Oscar season, usually with impressive results. At the very least, I’d expect to see Freeman in the running come next January.

Invictus is based on John Carlin’s book, Playing The Enemy: Nelson Mandela And the Game That Made A Nation, which explains where that working title came from.

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