By Robert Waldman : Baseball is America’s sport. But it wasn’t always fun and games. Back in the day only whites were allowed to play pro ball. All that changed thanks to a general manager with foresight and a gifted ball player. 42 is the story of really two legends true and through. Visionary Warner Brothers deserves all the credit in the world for bringing this monumental story to the silver screen. Don’t be a benchwarmer and sit this one out. Instead, rush out to the Empire Studio 12, Colossus or Cineplex Odeon cinemas around B.C. to see one of the most inspirational tales in year.
Oscar caliber performances abound in 42, the story of Jackie Robinson. Cast in these giant kleats is Chadwick Boseman. Decades ago there was a movie on Jackie Robinson that starred the actual ball player. People will identify Boseman as Robinson thanks to his wonderful portrayal. What 42, actually Mr. Robinson’s jersey number with the Brooklyn Dodgers, represents is the arrival of an Afro American into the major leagues. Against all odd the wiley manager of the Dodgers, Branch Rickey took on the baseball establishment by signing Robinson to a contract. Look for Harrison Ford (Raiders of the Lost Ark) to earn an Oscar nomination for his outstanding performance as the man who faced down the racism that surrounded this signing. Needless to say Jackie Robinson encountered racial discrimination throughout his life and going to the big city to play ball when only whites were accepted proved to be the ultimate eye-opener.
Director/writer Brian Helgeland truly does justice to this one of a kind event that broke the colour barier some 55 years ago. Canada also plays a pivotal part in this story as the Dodgers first had Robinson play for their farm club in Montreal. Prior to that we see the gifted athelete play in his home state before crossing the U.S. for the big city and tough times of New York. Along the way there are plenty of racially charged moments especially with rivalries in Philadelphie and Cincinatti. Focus on baseball and Robinson and the fans will win as the on diamond shots are brilliantly recreated. True excitement follows ever step this man makes as he goes from also ran to a hall of fame inductee. How fitting it is that the number 42 is the only jersey ever retired into the baseball hall of fame, which prior to Robinson’s arrival could better be termed a hall of shame.
Standout performances populate 42 and the atmosphere of this racially divided time is scintillating. Cast as two pivotal people in this man’s climb to the top are a local sports writer enunciated by Andre Holland and number one lady love Rachel, wonderfully depicted by Nicole Beharie.
You don’t need to be a sports fan to appreciate the story of the underdog and during his day there was no bigger underdog than Jackie Robinson. 42 is a tremendously entertaining real story about a real man that classy actors and writers have brought out for all to remember.