42 review

When screened at the White House earlier this year, 42 earned an enthusiastic endorsement from President Obama and his First Lady. One can see why they liked it so much. It's a sturdy tale of oppression, one man's journey in becoming the first ever African-American to play Major League baseball. In 1947, 28-year-old Jackie Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, overcoming racial prejudice from every quarter and making history, paving the way for future African-Americans to play in the big leagues. It's a life affirming tale, well made and worthy.

It covers the two years Robinson spent training with the Montreal Royals and then playing with the Dodgers. It also doesn't shy away from the hardships he faced. Red-neck bigots, nasty and aggressive coaches and police chiefs, even his fellow team members, all taunt him because of the colour of his skin. But he knows that if he were to fight back he would lose all credibility in the eyes of the small-minded Americans of that era.

This is very much an old-fashioned Hollywood biopic, not a particularly realistic one. Robinson's many opponents are all broadly drawn racists, his fellow cohorts, such as his wife (Beharie) and the reporter (Holland) entrusted to chauffeur him, all highly dignified. Boseman fills the role of Robiunson convincingly, though it's hardly a great stretch. He controls his emotions with increasing frustration and only in a couple of scenes do we get to see him break out under the severe pressure he's under. For most of the way he plays Robinson with a staunch air of determination and grace.

Ford is fun to watch as the elderly and grizzled manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Branch Rickey. Relishing the opportunity of a good character role, he hunches his shoulders and speaks in a slow, growly drawl, his brows constantly furrowed. It's entertaining to see him as an old man, cantankerous to be sure but with a good business brain and a good heart.

Writer-director Helgeland takes his sweet time in letting the events play out. It's leisurely paced and bathed in sunny hues. Everything looks impossibly scrubbed and clean. Though there's strife and conflict you don't see any dirt. Accessible then for family audiences, 42 wears its heart on its sleeve and delivers in solid, methodical style. it won't excite you but it will instil respect and satisfaction.

42 at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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