Clint Eastwood, who deals in a variety of subjects yet often gives his films recognizable authorial stamps, would seem to be prime evidence of the strength of auteurism: the dulcet-toned romantic weepie The Bridges of Madison County feels as much like an “Eastwood film” as the shadowy political thriller Absolute Power or the boxing tragedy Million Dollar Baby. Yet in recent years, Eastwood’s films have begun to seem like they were made by committee, even the almost parodically self-mythologizing Gran Torino, which appeared as though it might have plausibly been half-directed by a second unit crew (anytime the Hmong kids were onscreen sans Clint, the visual quality and the charisma level of the amateur performers plummeted to shocking depths). Changeling, on the other hand, came across as an overblown, unpleasant B-picture that, despite its Eastwood hallmarks—a handful of simple descending chords as its main musical score; somber, envelopingly grim atmosphere; themes of profound systemic corruption—felt alarmingly like a director-for-hire project.
Unfortunately, Invictus continues this trend. It’s the kind of film made with such unerring capital-P professionalism and that’s based on such noble subject matter that it’s all but assured respectful reviews, especially factoring in the general free pass Eastwood’s been given of late (people seem so pleased and surprised of his tireless work ethic at his old age that they overlook the muddled storytelling of Changeling and the infantile martyrdom narrative of Gran Torino), but it’s a thudding, impersonal work. Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of Invictus.