42 serves as a blunt reminder that America's most beautiful and well-respected game was once muddied with racism and segregation. The biopic of esteemed baseball player Jackie Robinson, told with style and elegance, is capped with a triumphant finish.
Robinson is played by Chadwick Boseman in the film, and the little-known actor was the shining centerpiece in an otherwise predictable film. Boseman channels the great humility Robinson is known for, as well as the torturous patience and inner struggle he must have endured in order to remain in a league of all-white ball players.
"You give me a uniform, you give me a number on my back, I'll give you the guts," Robinson said in the film's trailer.
The rise of the icon was one marked by hatred and difficulty, but with the help of the persistent and unwavering Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) and Robinson's loving wife (Nicole Beharie), he manages to fight through oppression and break down the barriers of America's pastime. Tender moments ensue with Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers' general manager, who always supports Robinson and stands up for him despite widespread disapproval.
The film is successful in that it releases the frustration of Robinson's painful struggle in cathartic ways when Robinson slams a homerun or steals multiple bases among the slew of slurs and foul play. Tender moments with his wife add a touch of romance to the film, but some of the best moments are between Rickey and Robinson, who have an unspoken bond and love for one another.
Fresh faces fill the fields and streets of the 1940-set film, which is wonderfully shot and acts almost as a time machine to a period where baseball was king and not much else mattered. Robinson's courage becomes infectious among fans and teammates and, consequently, the Brooklyn Dodgers are able to overcome adversity and become superior on a personal level.
Robinson's story is one of the best in sports history, and the film tastefully and admirably tells it with a wealth of new actors and exquisitely filmed scenes. The story does not include surprises or unexpected outcomes, but they don't seem necessary. Life is not always made for Hollywood, and director Brian Helgeland clearly understood this, staying true to the story without unnecessary embellishment.
What Robinson did for baseball is something of folklore, and the fact that it took this long to be made into a film is shocking. However, it is probably for the best because the story landed in the hands of a good director with the ability to frame the time period accurately and tell the story with class. 42 is a feel-good sports flick that is sure to please baseball lovers, history buffs and film enthusiasts with its pure charm and stellar casting.