SYNOPSIS: Hero is a word we hear often in sports, but heroism is not always about achievements on the field of play. "42" tells the story of two men—the great Jackie Robinson and trailblazing Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey—whose brave stand against prejudice forever changed the world by changing the game of baseball.
From Academy Award® winner Brian Helgeland ("L.A. Confidential") comes the real-life drama "42," starring Chadwick Boseman ("The Express") as Jackie Robinson and Oscar® nominee Harrison Ford ("Witness") as Branch Rickey.
In 1947, Branch Rickey put himself at the forefront of history when he signed Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking Major League Baseball's infamous color line. But the deal also put both Robinson and Rickey in the firing line of the public, the press and other players.
Facing blatant racism from every side, even his own team, Robinson was forced to demonstrate tremendous courage and restraint by not reacting in kind, knowing that any incident could destroy his and Rickey's hopes. Instead, Number 42 let his talent on the field do the talking—ultimately winning over fans and his teammates, silencing his critics, and paving the way for others to follow.
In 1997, Major League Baseball retired the number 42 for all teams, making it the first number in sports to be universally retired. The only exception is every year on April 15th—Jackie Robinson Day—commemorating the date of his first game as a Brooklyn Dodger. On that day alone, players from every team proudly wear the number 42 to honor the man who altered the course of history.
REVIEW: 42, Written and directed by Brian Helgeland whose credits range from scripting L.A. Confidential to directing Payback and A Knight’s Tale, functions beautifully as a tribute to Jackie Robinson’s courage and dignity. In this latest effort, Helgeland seems to walk that thin line of racism, right down the middle, between discomfort and relevance. It’s a decent movie that aspires to overemotional mediocrity in an effort to tell an important story in a way that will least upset anyone. When all is said and done and despite what we think of the actual cinematography of it all, this is a movie about a crucial moment in black history written by, directed by and largely starring Caucasian men. It’s a movie that opts to start telling its story the moment that men of color entered America’s favorite past-time; baseball. It’s a movie that spends a lot of time making sure we know that a lot of non-minority folks had to be there to help Robinson make his mark in history. This is a movie that seems to convey the black experience that often doesn’t get spot-lighted for the right reasons, in America. I don’t think any one group owns the copyright on stories about themselves, but I have to wonder what 42 with a different perspective, would look like.
Propelling this flick along was certainly possible with the choice in casting. It would seem that the powers-to-be, wisely chose to skip a more established name (such as Jamie Foxx) and found the right man for the part. Filmmakers brought along little-known Chadwick Boseman, a TV and film-bit player with a serious likeness to Robinson; exhibiting a quiet way of imposing his will that feels right for the part. One can imagine that Robinson had to be quite sensitive to the politics surrounding his ascension in those days, and Boseman projects the discipline necessary to do it without compromise. Harrison Ford, on the other hand, growls like a junkyard dog as Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers executive who broke the color barrier when he signed Robinson, then a star shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro leagues. Ford’s take on the “Mr. Rickey” character is beautifully orchestrated and is certainly worthy of acknowledgement, by his peers. He, without a doubt brought real meaning and substance to this story and solidified the character’s relevance. Not to go unnoticed is Nicole Beharie, playing Robinson’s wife (Rachel Isum). Beharie brings a certain quality of innocence and strength to the role like no other would. She’s beautifully poised in every scene and flawless in her character-role.
Overall, this movie serves as a history lesson in many ways, as well as a stark reminder of what trials and tribulations athletes of color had to endure for us to be able to enjoy super athletes of today, such as Jordan, Tiger Woods and Lebron James. 42 certainly deserves four out of five stars for great storytelling, substance and relevance and is worth the visit to the theaters.
By Movi-Man Stan
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