IF YOU'RE GOING to see one movie about the fall of apartheid this holiday season, chances are you're going to see Clint Eastwood's Invictus. (Probably with your dad, sometime over Christmas.) But let me urge you (and your dad) to consider Endgame, a tightly coiled political thriller about the secret talks in England held between a white professor of philosophy and a black representative of the African National Congress, which directly led to the end of apartheid and the beginning of a democratic process in South Africa.

If that sounds like more work than watching Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon try to win a game of rugby, rest assured that Endgame doesn't feel like a history lesson—or, actually, it feels like the best kind of history lesson, in which remarkably complicated circumstances are told simply and clearly, with an uncontrived sense of drama. Director Pete Travis shoots nearly all of Endgame with a handheld camera, and it never feels jittery, but rather effectively imbued with suspense and realism.

The talks were brokered in secret by an employee of a British gold-mining firm—played with convincing nebbishness by Jonny Lee Miller—and the consistently excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor portrays Thabo Mbeki, who would later become president of South Africa following Nelson Mandela's term. Ejiofor is perfectly matched by William Hurt as Willie Esterhuyse, the representative of white South Africans' interests; when the film focuses on the exchanges between the two, it crackles with energy.

Endgame also details Nelson Mandela's incarceration, and if you can't imagine anyone playing Mandela better than Morgan Freeman, that's because you haven't considered the dude who played the kindly, bespectacled Detective Lester Freamon in The Wire. He's perfect (the actor's name is Clarke Peters), as is the entire cast; their potent characterizations, and Endgame's whip-tight suspense, make Clint Eastwood's rugby match look dreary by comparison. Even your dad will agree.