New baseball movie contains historical theme

The story of how baseball legend Jackie Robinson broke major league baseball’s 60-year color barrier is one of the most important sports moments of the past century.

It also transcended sports and became a spark plug to lead the civil rights movement.

And now that monumental American event is chronicled in the theatrical release, “42,” a biographical drama film written and directed by Brian Helgeland.

The name might not sound familiar, but Helgeland has had experience with working on big-budget films, including 1997’s “L.A. Confidential” – in which he won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay – and 2003’s “Mystic River.”

“42” begins with Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) sitting in his office while discussing with his associates the possibility of bringing a black man into major league baseball, ending the 60-year racial barrier. That black man would eventually be revealed to be none other than Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman).

Robinson’s road to the majors starts in the minor leagues and by 1947 he officially joins the Dodger roster. As Robinson succeeds on the field, distractions mount as he gets hounded by the media and must contend with a whole nation of racial slurs.

Out of all things that went into the work of this film, much has to be praised about its historical accuracy. As a viewer, you almost feel like you’re watching a documentary without the narration because of the filmmaker’s attention to factual detail. For instance, when Robinson first gets called up to play for the Dodgers, his white teammates sign a petition refusing to play alongside him. This along with other historical accuracies deliver a sense of realism to the racial barrier that took place then.

The film also possesses great acting. Boseman, in his first theatrical lead role, impresses with the amount of energy he brings to play the role of the strong-willed and courageous Robinson. And 70-year-old Ford, no stranger to big-budget films, performs nicely in a supporting role as the team executive Branch Rickey.

Although the acting is phenomenal, the same couldn’t be said for the script. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. In a movie that clocks in over two hours, the script lacks a true climax and any sort of true antagonistic character. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, Robinson is going through adversity in a white-dominated sport. However, Helgeland could have added more punch and a couple of ounces of Hollywood magic to a script that is mostly dry bones.

This flaw, however, doesn’t dismiss the film from being unwatchable. It’s an interesting look into how different American life was like back then. And it paints a pretty good interpretation of a true American legend and hero. So for that reason alone, it’s worth the admission price.



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