Written and directed by Brian Helgeland, 42 is a biographical sports film about the first african american major league baseball player, Jackie Robinson and the man who believed in him, Dodger’s coach, Branch Rickey. A famous and well known story for most Americans, 42 may not be a new tale by any means, but it certainly brings new light to such an inspiring and ground-breaking story.
Props are due to the entire cast here, but specifically the leads Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and Harrison Ford as Rickey. In his first major leading role, Boseman is completely captivating as the boisterous yet immensely talented Jackie. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if this guy was making his way towards super stardom. Ford was my personal favorite as the passionate, blunt and big supporter of Robinson. Nearly completely transforming his speech, Ford was almost unrecognizable but from what I know of Rickey, seemed to have portrayed him spot on. The pair were dynamic on camera and really gave the story the passion and drive it needed to give it some sense of grandeur.
Also mentionable were some of the supporting characters like, Christopher Meloni, Lucas Black, Alan Tudyk and Nicole Beharie. Among others, it was the combination of all of these strong individual actors that created a cast that was hard to take your eyes off of. This film easily had one of the strongest casts altogether that I’ve seen in a while.
Although this story has been told and told before, director Helgeland certainly made this one resonate with audiences. It was full of inspirational, tear-jerker moments. Often Jackie would feel down and out, completely handicapped by his skin color, just to come out even stronger on the field. Slow and steady, the rest of the Dodger’s players, along with many other American’s, begin to change their mind about racism. While there’s some cheesy music and overly-dramatic dialogue sprinkled throughout the film, it really doesn’t distract from the genuine charm.
As mentioned, this story’s been told many times over. A film like this is sort of a cheat, almost a guaranteed success due to it’s uplifting content. While it’s cast certainly set it apart from many films like it, it was predictable and systematic. I will say that the inspirational sports film isn’t my genre of choice, and the average movie goer may be much less jaded, but I am kind of bored of movies like these. That said, this really was a great film, it just wasn’t life changing or unique.
This is a good movie that won’t disappoint viewers, but doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen before. Luckily, it’s strong cast, steady pace of action and plot along with an inspirational story made 42 easy and enjoyable to watch. For most audiences, I’d recommend seeing this film, but don’t expect to learn anything about Jackie Robinson you haven’t heard before. The focus on coach Rickey does help add some often overlooked info to the story, and the way the story unfolds makes this one of the better Robinson films.