42

8 Overall Score
Casting: 9/10
Writing: 7/10
Appeal: 8/10

A triumphant sports film thanks to its convincing atmosphere and performances.

The script feels a bit uneven at times, and so does its emotional exhibition.

It’s become a joke for me and my friends over the past few years to use the number ’42’ as a random answer to math questions we don’t know. We’ve utilized this number so much that it has begun to lose meaning and value, and it’s become the result of soulless, aimless methods of solving problems. However, in both baseball and civil rights, the number ’42’ holds much more value. It’s the number Jackie Robinson, the Major League Baseball player who broke the color barrier, wore, and today, it’s the only number retired by every team. Obviously, the depth behind this number solved many problems, and the most important of those problems was racial discrimination. With the new Robinson biopic, 42, this number is given immaculate value. It is the definition of how exactly one player was able to change baseball, and it adds to the list of great sports movies the past few years has warranted.

Obviously, the story of Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) begins with his debut in the then-all-white baseball. But 42 doesn’t focus solely on the career of Robinson, as it attempts to depict the lives of those around him – his wife, his coach, the rest of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the team’s owner, Branch Rickie (Harrison Ford). In addition, the film also strives to summarize the struggle for African Americans to gain civil rights, and for the most part, it does a great job. Without overdramatizing or under-developing any aspects of his life or the lives of those around him, 42 portrays the mood at the time as a bit unsettling, and very humanized at the same time. Not only does the audience see the amount of negativity directed towards Robinson, but they also get the realization of how Robinson’s career in the MLB was important – and without making him seem over-important or heroic. Rather, in his performance of Robinson, Boseman portrays a man who fought with his emotions and a player who was thick-skinned and dynamic (I mean, he did play three different positions during the course of his career).

42 - Screenshot 1The performances were the most intriguing aspect of this film. Ford’s portrayal of Rickie is the most powerful, and may arguably be the best supporting performance we’ll see all year. He completely delves into a character enriched by religion and full of wise things to say. Boseman was also brilliant; he’s come a long way since his role as Ernie Davis in the sub-par football flick The Express. I like it when films get down to the bare flesh of humanity, and 42 does that. However, while discrimination and racism flowed through the veins of 1940s America, the movie represents the changing of the times. The film’s Christian themes may be a bit overwhelming for some, but the idea of “loving your neighbor as yourself” was probably the most enlightening theme to be found. And instead of spoonfeeding cliches to the viewer, the film instead opts for the actions of Robinson and the rest of his team to get the job done. Lucas Black’s portrayal of Pee Wee Reese was the most inspiring, and Ben Chapman’s (Alan Tudyk) character is astounding in its representation of perceptual change. The film’s incredible script, despite feeling a bit uneven at times, helps boost the motivational message and the red-hot potency of the characters.

42 - Screenshot 2The atmosphere is formed on the greatness of the film’s writing, but in addition to the prowess of the characters and story elements, there is a visual spectacle to be found in 42. From Ebbets Field to Crosley Field, the stadiums are colorful and vibrant to the point that they feel real. The dynamic portrayal of the settings brings the audience into the heart of the film, especially from the field to the front offices to the homes and hotels where the players reside. While the visuals aren’t the main focus of the movie, they do an effective job of building the atmosphere of the time. For a film built on the veracity of true events, 42, despite its odd switch-off between humor and drama, flourishes thanks to its cinematography, sets, and composition.

In 2009, The Blind Side brought sports films to the forefront of culture. Amidst its box office success, it was surpassed by both Moneyball and Warrior, two of 2011’s most dynamic, thought-provoking, and heart-filled movies. 2013’s 42 adds to the momentum garnered over the last few years. It’s proof that sports movies are only getting better in overall quality. What separates 42 from the pack is not only is quality feel in terms of mood, writing, and performances, but also its substantiality. The film’s greatness is found within its thematic portrayal of discrimination, and America’s racial struggles. Robinson proves to be in the middle of all of that, despite his reluctance, and it’s nice to see a movie do such an incredible job of depicting – and perfecting – the heart, mind, and soul an American hero. 42 is a revitalization of the ideals that America holds so tightly today, and it’s given one number worth far beyond its face value.

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Author: Tim Dodderidge View all posts by
I'm a student at the University of Kansas hoping to major in journalism. I love Christopher Nolan films, eating at Taco Bell, and playing indoor soccer. I also like to watch How I Met Your Mother and enjoy writing poetry.

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