Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Chadwick Boseman,
Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie
Director: Brian Helgeland
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 128 Minutes
Release Date: July 16, 2013
“You want a player who doesn't have the guts to fight back?”
“No...I want a player who has the guts NOT to fight back.”
In 1947, not long after helping his country achieve victory in WWII, Jackie Robinson helped it achieve another. He was the first African American to break the color line in Major League Baseball. He did it with conviction, courage, and most of all, the kind of athletic ability no one could ignore...least of all, if they cared more about their team winning than some arbitrary division between human beings.
42 tells the story of Jackie's first two professional seasons, first as a Montreal Royal in the minor leagues, then his first real year in the Show, as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
It came under the guidance of team owner Branch Rickey (Ford), who knew that he, like his protege, would take the slings and arrows all pioneers endure. If his choice turned out to be a failure, not only would it affect the future of his own team, but the future of African Americans in professional baseball.
Fortunately, he chose wisely. Jackie Robinson (Boseman) was born to play. A gifted hitter and fielder, but even more so runner, Jackie brought a natural style and energy to the game that would rattle the most confident of pitchers and inspire legions of fans.
That was in the long run...at first, he had to deal with what seems more than any person could be asked to bear. Wherever he went, there were insults and threats...sometimes his whole team was refused accommodations simply because of his presence. In some places, he was even threatened with arrest for being on the same field as white players.
For some on his team, Jackie represented a change they were not ready for. Some saw him as a sideshow and a distraction. Jackie was a proud man, and it took a lot of control not to fight back. But Rickey wisely advised him to stay cool and play. Any retaliation would be made to look bad on him, rather than those doing the provoking.
This is a wonderful slice of American history told, as only our country could, in the guise of a sports movie. If we love rooting for underdogs, then Jackie was the ultimate one. Sometimes almost nobody believed in him except himself, his wife (Beharie), and Rickey. But against all odds and seemingly the world, Jackie made a name for himself...not as a black man, but as a ballplayer. His talent spoke for itself, not to mention his integrity and courage.
In his first year, he led the Dodgers to the World Series. By the end of his career, it was certain he was Hall of Fame material and then some. He bears perhaps the proudest tribute ever offered to a professional athlete: every single Major League team retired the number 42 in his honor.
This is the rare movie that made me wish it was a little longer. Jackie accomplished so much in his career, and this film focuses just on that crucial first year with the Dodgers. That year may have been the most significant, but it was a small let-down to see the rest of his illustrious career go by on the screen in the last few minutes as mere footnotes.
Jackie Robinson changed the face of baseball and the face of America for the better. Too many sports figures are labeled 'heroes' in hyperbole. For Jackie, the word was an understatement.
This is a lovely period film from Warner with good coloring and crisp, clean images. There is nothing too demanding at play here, but for the drama at hand, I can say there were no flaws to behold.
The audio is mostly serviced from the sounds of the game and the musical score, but spoken words are important and delivered clearly.
There are three short featurettes, two on the making of the film and one on the legacy of Jackie Robinson.
42 is a solid, enjoyable film about a slice of American history and the man who authored it. The legacy of Jackie Robinson will live forever in baseball and in the hearts of a grateful nation.