It takes a great man with several amazing talents to push through the hatred of so many other men and still fuel the love he has for baseball.
I watched the trailer for “42” last week, unaware of what it was exactly, having neglected my education of baseball history up until this part of my life. Like anyone would do these days, I proceeded to look up Jackie Robinson on Wikipedia in order to understand what the number 42 had to do with anything.
Robinson, played by Chadwick Boseman, was the first African American to play major league baseball in 1947, and he wore the number 42 on his jersey. It is so far the only number to be retired in major league baseball.
Despite the historical time of Jim Crow laws and extreme racial prejudice, this biography movie was about the baseball player. It shows us just how remarkable of a person Robinson was to be able to take on the unkindness of an entire baseball league that didn’t want him there despite his skill.
As far as I can tell, the film is accurate in terms of dates of events, facts and people involved in Robinson’s story. The only problem I had was the way the first half hour of the movie progressed.
It jumps into the part of Robinson’s life when Branch Rickey, club president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, played by Harrison Ford, decides to pick up a player from one of the Negro Leagues. At this point, Robinson had already served in the military and played several sports for UCLA. From there, the next two years are quickly portrayed in a matter of thirty minutes on film, which made it hard to connect with the characters.
Once I got past the initial introduction and background bit, the cast really started to come together for me, and the story became great.
The dialogue was well-executed by all actors involved. There were several scenes that had only a couple of different shots and longer takes. Those are my favorites because that’s when you can tell the actors have their whole heart in the film. When they can carry on good conversation for long shots, then the audience gets lost in the scene. It stops being a movie and you’re just there with them in the conversation.
In many cases the writing was kept very light-hearted, usually with help from Ford. The whole theater burst out in laughter on more than one occasion. Boseman did a great job as well, often without having to use words. His smile and mannerisms made him play an incredibly likeable part.
Jackie Robinson is a baseball legend, first and foremost. It can easily be said that he was a civil rights activist in some cases, but this film stayed away from too much focus on just that, though it is obviously still there due to the times. I give “42” four out of five suns for the great cast, their performances and the inspiring story.