CHADWICK BOSEMAN HARRISON FORD LUCAS BLACK
Oh no, not another baseball movie! That’s what I thought too, but 42, based on the incredible beginnings of Jackie Robinson, is a must-see film for everyone of any age. I knew little to nothing about the first African American Major League Baseball player, but the producers of Ray have delivered another emotionally touching film that not only enlightens us with history, but is just good for the soul. If you still need more reason to see it, Harrison Ford delivers probably his best performance in 20 years. It’s not just good; this is an Oscar-worthy supporting performance that has Ford playing a character I’ve never seen him play.
“Dollars aren’t black and white; they are green,” Branch Rickey (Ford), a rich executive in Major League Baseball, says when presenting his case for introducing the first African American into baseball. Jackie Robinson (Boseman) is the man who has to suffer and endure to change the way America views the game. Jackie does not think of himself as a hero, but reporter Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) reminds him that there are little boys everywhere who now can have a dream of playing in the Major Leagues. Jackie and his wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie) must pray and bite their lips in order for Jackie to prove that not only is he a magnificent ball player, he is a wonderful human being.
We have seen politics play out in sports films before; it’s quite often what’s going on off the diamond, floor, or field that makes the best stories. It should come as no surprise that there are few moments of actual game playing in this film directed by Brian Helgeland (A Knights Tale). Instead, there is far more on the struggles of Robinson and the determination of a man who loves baseball enough to change it for everyone. The script is quite smart in using many Bible references and quotes to get a strong point across, without preaching or condemning. Ford’s grumpy and steadfast Rickey has the best zingers and one-liners in the film.
It has really been a long while since anyone can claim 70 year-old Harrison Ford has given a great performance. His work has always been geared towards pleasing mainstream audiences and he has only been nominated for an Oscar once in his career, for Witness in 1985. In his “you let me love baseball again” speech, Ford does what Robert DeNiro did last year in Silver Linings Playbook, reminding us of why we love his work. The editing of 42 is extremely smart and rises above where most sports films fail. Every ten minutes the story refers back to Rickey, who provides us with much of the comedy and the push forward that the film and Jackie rely on. There is, however, a tear-inducing moment between numbers 1 & 42 on second base that really sums up the entire reason for this film being one of 2013’s must-see movies.
Final Thought – Our first Oscar potential film of 2013.
Grade B+ By: Dustin Chase