Directed by: Brian Helgeland
Written by: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Alan Tudyk, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni
Jackie Robinson stood as one of the biggest trailblazing athletes to ever step on a field or court. Some teams retire numbers for players that left a major impact on the team during their careers. For example, the New York Yankees retired the number four for Babe Ruth’s incredible contribution to the team, therefore no Yankees player can ever wear that number again. Jackie Robinson’s 42 jersey is retired in all of baseball, which shows the impact of this man on the entire sport. This biopic does his legacy justice aided by the tremendous Chadwick Boseman.
After making waves in his own league, Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) gets the call to join the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. With that opportunity comes the reality that an African-American ballplayer in that time had to fight just to play among other white players. Through controlling his temper and continually being above the racists, Robinson lets his talent on the field speak for him.
Jackie Robinson has left such a legacy that the mere act of casting him must be difficult, but they struck gold by bringing on Chadwick Boseman. He brings forth a very good performance to try and capture the essence of the sports icon. This would not be the first time he takes on a biopic about an iconic African-American man with portraying Thurgood Marshall and James Brown in Marshall and Get on Up. Each time he delivers and he does so once again in 42 as Boseman shows the grace and the genuine enthusiasm Robinson had to play the game. Even with all of the issues he faces, the love of the game helps him push past it.
42 sheds a light on Jackie Robinson that I was unaware of to see the true struggle he faced on his journey to becoming a legend. I knew he certainly experienced racism but not to the degree displayed in this film. Sure, some of the scenes have some dramatization, but it tested him to keep his composure where others would surely break. Moments like being racially taunted by another manager, who should have at least some respect for every player called up. The film did not display him as perfect, as it could have easily done, they show Robinson being on the verge of losing it and then expressing his rage in other ways. I found myself as a viewer of the film getting physically agitated by the circumstances.
Harrison Ford brought his typical charm in the role of the owner of the Dodgers, Branch Rickey. He takes on the cigar-smoking and wise-cracking owner that brings Robinson into the team. A role that brings out a surprising performance out of Ford and he genuinely brought comedy and heart to the story.
As with many biopics, 42 tells a sanitized story and avoids some of the harsher aspects of Robinson’s life. Condensing someone’s life into a two-hour feature is a difficult task so this film decides to lean towards the uplifting side. Jackie Robinson has always been heralded for his excellence and 42 wanted to focus on that aspect of him. With it, they tell a story of the grit and grace this man harbored to get to the top. The story could have brought more bite, but the message it speaks on creates its worth. Jackie Robinson needed to go high when his detractors went low. A timeless message and this film delivered it well.
42 does not serve as a deep-dive character piece on Jackie Robinson, but it does tell an uplifting story of what it took for an African-American man to break into a league that refused to have him. By keeping his head up, he took away any venom his detractors could throw towards him because he delivered on the field. Once he got on the field, his contributions to the team and the league could not be denied. His success opened up the game for other legends to step foot into the league and make history from Hank Aarons to Ken Griffey, Jr. That’s why his number remains retired across the entire league and why his name will continue to be named as one of the greatest athletes in all of sports. 42 honors that legacy and honors the man.