By Jonatham Kellam
Directed by Brian Helgeland
★★★★ out of ★★★★
Chadwick Boseman – Jackie Robinson
Harrison Ford – Branch Rickey
Nicole Beharie – Rachel Robinson
Andre Holland – Wendell Smith
Christopher Meloni – Leo Durocher
The highly anticipated dramatization of baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s revolutionary career is masterfully depicted in Brian Helgeland’s fourth feature film, 42. The film chronicles Robinson’s recruitment by Branch Rickey and follows his first season as the first African-American to play Major League Baseball. The treatment he receives, even by many members of his own team, is horrendous, but Robinson keeps his composure, refuses to stoop to their level, and ultimately makes history. This isn’t a film about baseball; it’s a film about the strength, courage and resolve it takes to change the world.
Brian Helgeland has had a sporadic directing career, but I hope this film’s success changes that. His previous works include Payback, an excellent revenge-themed neo-noir starring Mel Gibson and A Knight’s Tale, which is on my long list of movies to see. In 42 he has created one of the best biopics, and certainly the best sports biopic in years. The writing and the characters are the film’s strongest suits, but they are closely followed by the beautiful cinematography and impeccable set decoration that authentically recreates the 1940s.
Chadwick Boseman is fantastic in the lead role. Prior to this, he has mostly acted in television, but I suspect (and hope) we will be seeing much more of him on the big screen in years to come. Two other stars, Nicole Beharie and Andre Holland, are also fairly new to the big screen and were quite impressive as Rachel Robinson and sportswriter Wendell Smith, respectively. Hollywood is badly lacking in leading roles filled by minorities and I hope to see the three aforementioned people much more and in great roles that are deserving of their talents. Rounding out the principal cast is Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the Dodgers’ general manager. Despite his status as one of the most iconic American actors, Ford has never taken home an Oscar and I sincerely believe his performance in this may change that.
Most “feel-good” movies tend to be too cheesy. Not so with 42. A mediocre film might have tried to suggest that racism in America died when Robinson hit his first home run. While some warm up to him, the film makes it clear that no matter how talented he is, or perhaps because of how talented he is, there were still those that didn’t believe Robinson had any place in Major League Baseball or in America at all. Too often do period films whitewash history to avoid controversy and it is a crime to do so. 42 shows us the very best of America…and the very worst. To conclude, 42 is a wonderful film that the whole family can enjoy and it teaches us lessons that are as relevant today as they were in 1947: don’t let the bastards get you down and realize that sometimes it takes more guts to not fight back.