Considering all the hype, it would have been shocking if Clint Eastwood's "Invictus" didn't turn out to be a true awards season contender.  The subject matter, the stars and the filmmaker's resume are an eye-popping combination that is the textbook definition of Oscar bait if there ever was one.  After watching the film's brand new trailer, screw the awards perspective.  This just looks like one damn good movie.

The true story of a pivotal moment in South Africa's reconciliation movement, "Invictus" chronicles the relationship between new President Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) and star Rugby player Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) as the nation's team tries to win the 1995 Rugby Cup.  The first released footage from the December release debuted today exclusively on Apple. You can watch the trailer here.  Or, watch the new trailler embedded below.

While some cinefiles were concerned that the subject matter was too melodramatic and corny to work onscreen. However, it appears Eastwood's steady, restrained approach may have been the perfect match to convey the inspirational story.  Needless to say, it's a very well done preview.  Many films have been whipped into shape by their marketing departments only to disappoint when actually screened.  That's rarely the case with Eastwood.  This pundit is admittedly not a fan of his recent work.  "Mystic River" was amazing until the ending made a dramatic left turn.  "Million Dollar Baby" featured some fine performances, but best picture?  Um, O.K.  "Flags of our Fathers" was a good looking mess.  "Changeling"?  Needed help in the editing room.  And "Gran Torino"?  Fine pulp entertainment, but don't get me started on those inexperienced actors Eastwood cast.  And yet, "Unforgiven"?  A true classic.  "Letters from Iwo Jima"?  So good it made you immediately forget "Flags" was its "sister" feature.  Shoot, even "Space Cowboys" is a great time at the movies.  How "Invictus" stacks up is unclear, but the stakes have been raised by this fine tease.

As expected, both Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon look as though they will be legitimate acting contenders although whether both men can be nominated for lead remains to be seen.  And picture?  Considering the negative buzz many have started to feel over what a ten nominee pool will mean this year, relief will meet the members of the Academy that another solid contender is in the mix.  And like this pundit, leave them hungry for more.

"Invictus"
opens nationwide on Dec. 11.


What do you think of the "Invictus" trailer?  Share your thoughts below.