42 (2013)

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Directed by:  Brian Helgeland
Written by:  Brian Helgeland
Starring:  Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, T.R. Knight and a host of others.

This movie is a biography first and a baseball movie second.  Director and screenwriter Brian Helgeland does more than recount the triumphs of MLB Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, he focuses on the backlash of the first African American to play professional ball for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

What I liked:  This is a truly inspiring biography of an American icon, and it feels like Helgeland takes a step back to let the story unfold on its own.  Despite the many clichés in the dialogue and relationships, that are part and parcel of a sports flick, I still felt the lumps in my throat at Robinson’s strength as he broke the colour barrier in baseball.  As Stephen Whitty put it, Chadwick Boseman, who plays Robinson, “captures, in a clenched jaw or a sidelong glance, a lifetime’s worth of dearly attained dignity and barely contained rage.” Boseman is matched only by Nicole Beharie who plays his wife.  The pair are as strong as their characters and make a, perhaps, unexceptional film heartfelt, meaningful and memorable.

What I didn’t like: I can commend Harrison Ford for stepping out of his comfort zone but his performance felt too forced to be convincing, despite his depth of character, as Branch Ricky the Dodgers Executive who searched out Robinson.  Although, it might be that I’m so used to seeing Ford play a certain role in a certain why that I was taken out of my comfort zone with this performance…Finally, the ending is anti-climactic, and despite the team’s final achievement, I was only aware that it was the finale by the surging music and heavy editing.

My rating: Even if you see it coming a mile away, you’ll be fighting off tears.

IMDB: 7.8

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%

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