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42 (2013) – Review

4 Stars


42 rests comfortably between the lite touch sentimental schmaltz of Disney’s Glory Road or Remember the Titans, and the angry racial social commentary of Michael Mann’s Ali. Crafted with great care and slick professionalism writer/director Brian Helgeland has achieved a rare combo, creating both a believable period piece and a winning sports film. America’s pastime has been covered to death in the cinema and even this story had a previous incarnation back in the 1950′s. Yet it is a story worthy of retelling especially with this ideal casting, relative newcomer Chadwick Boseman is outstanding in the title role and Harrison Ford hiding behind makeup and an accent delivers his best dramatic work in decades.

In the offseason of 1945 Brooklyn Dodgers team executive Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) realizes that a whole segment of baseball fans aren’t being catered to. So he devises a plan for reasons as economic as moral to integrate the game and bring a player from the negro leagues into the Major League. It is an extremely divisive maneuver that generates an enormous amount of backlash and outright hatred. But it also brings in a new fan base and proves Rickey to be a visionary in many respects.

The first hour is the trial faced by both Branch and Robinson as they navigate the minor league system and slowly start to make the press and public aware of the plan to start Robinson at first base by the 1947 season. The second half is dedicated to Robinson’s exploits largely off the field, during his first season leading up to the World Series. Many richly detailed supporting characters, cast with perfection, enhance the atmosphere of struggle and eventual camaraderie endured by the entire Brooklyn Dodgers team that intal season. The narrative is bookend by the writings of Robinson’s chronicler, Wendell. A man assigned to cover the tribulations and attributes of the first black man in professional baseball.

The excellent script is full of fantastic scenes that resonate with humor, sadness and an overall feeling of righteousness. None of Brian Helgeland’s previous work, while solid, prepared me for the mature film that he has made. This is the type of movie and story that is uniquely American and embodies all the right elements of Hollywood studio filmmaking. Some might point out that this is yet again another example of a black athlete’s story being drafted by a white creative team. Outstanding films such as The Hurricane and Ali weathered similar negative criticism. In reality a good movie is an uplifting and often empowering experience regardless of the racial profile of the filmmaker. 42 is both in equal measures and easily one of the year’s best films.

Director: Brian Helgeland
Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Andre Holland

3 Responses to 42 (2013) – Review

  • It’s about damn time Jason!! I absolutely loved 42 and even have my own review of this one in the pipeline.

    Boseman is perfectly cast and I think Ford gets his second Oscar nomination.

    There’s been a lot of talk about this being the highest grossing baseball movie, but it was so much more than a baseball movie. I think it was so much more than a baseball movie and deserves to be recognized that way.

    Great review Jason! See, we don’t always disagree.

    • Joe. We have had such varying tastes on movies lately it began to feel as if were an old married couple. Im glad to see we are on the dame page regarding this gem. Ford almost guarantees an Oscar Nom and the film itself is beautifully told and moving without being sentimental goo. Its a huge accomplishment for Brian Hegeland.

  • Great review, glad to read another positive one. I suck at going to the theaters lately, so in a few months I know I’ll have this, along with a ton of other stuff to watch on DVD. Rumors swirling of Boseman being Marvel’s Black Panther, as well. Could be exciting!