“You give me a uniform, you give me a number on my back, I’ll give you the guts.”-Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson
Chadwick Boseman swings for the fences in his portrayal of an American icon in Academy Award winner Brian Helgeland’s (“L.A. Confidential,” “Mystic River”) biopic, simply titled “42.”
The film co-stars Academy Award nominee Harrison Ford (“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Fugitive”) as veteran Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, who in 1946, sparked a revolutionary idea.
“I want to bring a black baseball player to the Brooklyn Dodgers.”-Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey
In 1940s America, the idea of bringing an African-American into Major League Baseball was taboo for America was still deeply segregated and the world was definitely unprepared to see an African-American play baseball with white players.
Rickey knew that he and the player would face unprecedented racism and scrutiny but he also knew that the game at its core had to change. Eventually, Rickey found his man in the Negro Leagues in Kansas City Monarchs shortstop named Jackie Robinson, portrayed by Boseman.
The film is essentially a documentary, chronicling the Robinson’s recruitment to the Montreal Royals, the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league affliate, to the conclusion of his Rookie of the Year season in 1948. It specifically spotlights how much racial abuse Robinson endured along his path to the Dodgers from the press, the public and, at times, his teammates but the real highlight of the film is how Robinson’s character showed fortitude and restraint in the presence of those who didn’t want to see their game adhere to African-Americans.
The film also features segments of Robinson’s personal life, specifically his marriage to his wife Rachel, played by Nicole Behari (“Shame”) but the overall focus is on Robinson’s baseball career.
“42” is an amazing testament to the quality of fortitude and it really draws the audience to believe in the underdog that Boseman’s Robinson has become. It is a nicely paced biopic that really inspires sympathy for the characters.
It isn’t a perfect story though. While the film shines on Robinson’s life on the field, it seems like it doesn’t take the same light into Robinson’s personal life. All that is known about Robinson off the field is that he seemed to have the perfect marriage.
The film also sheds light on the abuse that Rickey had to endure but Ford’s character takes the role of the wise hermit who guides Robinson away from temptation of retaliating against his critics.
The acting, including Andre Holland (“Bride Wars”), who plays Robinson’s cartographer Wendall Smith, is nothing short of satisfying. Boseman and Ford in particular are very convincing because the audience instinctively root for their characters.
Brian Helgeland does a great job writing such a prime screenplay and he did his film justice in the director’s chair as well. This is an underdog story and everyone loves an underdog.
“42” is a winner. This is a movie that everyone will enjoy because it is a story that anyone can root for.