Eighty in May. Next time you get an attack of self-doubt or think that something is beyond you, remember that Clint Eastwood celebrates that milestone this year. Here he is, still working, still challenging himself, still getting great performances out of actors and championing the power of the human spirit in the story of 'Invictus'.

Beginning with the release of Nelson Mandela (Freeman) from Victor Verster Prison after 27 years of incarceration, 'Invictus' chronicles the baby steps of post-Apartheid South Africa and how the country strode confidently on the international stage as hosts and then winners of the Rugby World Cup in 1995.

With the country in the early 1990s lost in a smog of fear and suspicion, the newly-elected President Mandela realises that people need something to bring them together. Sport is an obvious solution; the South African rugby team isn't. From jersey to team selections, the Springboks are seen by blacks as a symbol of Apartheid.

But, against the advice of many around him, Mandela presses on with his idea that the Springboks can be a unifying force and finds another believer in the team's captain, François Pienaar (Damon). In each other the men see a way forward for their country and accept that both want the best for it. Now to convince 43m people to think the same.

If you're after a feelgood boost for February, then this is the ticket to buy. The 'so crazy it just might work' idea of Eastwood telling the true story of South Africa winning the Rugby World Cup in 1995 comes to the screen as a film that deftly mixes sport, sentiment and social comment and makes you want to read John Carlin's 'Playing the Enemy', the book on which it is based. Some may feel afterwards that 'Invictus' should have either been all about the rugby team or all about Mandela, but there is enough on and off-field drama to keep viewers anticipating every kick and line of dialogue for two-plus hours.

As with 'Gran Torino' and 'Million Dollar Baby', Eastwood uses the story (in this case a very big one) to focus on the poignancy of old age and the passing of wisdom to a younger generation, and while Freeman's casting was wish fulfillment for film fans, Damon is also perfect in his role. It's a credit to both that in their portrayal of such extraordinary people their performances are so understated. 'Invictus' sometimes has the feel of a TV movie - in a good way.

As a primer for this year's Six Nations, 'Invictus', oddly enough, arrives at the perfect time. After Ireland's heroics in 2009, it's a great reminder that anything is possible. Even two years in a row...

Harry Guerin