One baseball player changed the culture of Major League Baseball and inspired a nation during the civil rights period. The biopic “42” expresses the struggles and gratification that Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) experienced during his rookie year as a Brooklyn Dodger in 1947.
The film does an excellent job illustrating the relationship Robinson formed with the Dodgers’ general manager Branch Richey (Harrison Ford) and teammates as they faced adversity for breaking baseball’s color line.
This motivational film is a roller coaster that draws upon a variety of the characters’ raw emotions. “42” delivers a cast well deserving of future accolades due to their complete metamorphoses into their characters.
The story begins in Richey’s office as he devises a plan to integrate an African-American baseball player into the Major Leagues. The opening scene packs a hefty punch by completely immersing the audience in a historical moment that ignited the cessation of segregation in baseball.
Robinson’s longevity in the Dodgers’ franchise rests upon his ability to remain unfazed by scrutiny. The tension builds as he receives a very brutal verbal assault while at bat from Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk). This is the hardest scene to endure, and after Robinson hits a pop fly, he retreats behind the dugout and releases a disturbing scream.
As the story progresses, Robinson receives oppression from his teammates, opponents and fans. The severe harassment Robinson faces is counterbalanced with exemplary demonstrations of reassurance. His wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie) shows unconditional love and encouragement during his attempt to play for the Major Leagues, and the public support he receives from teammate Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) reassures the existence of human morality.
A new generation of children is a theme throughout the film, which demonstrates how influential Robinson was for the future of baseball and the civil rights movement. Tears will form when Robinson vows to be a prominent figure in his newborn son’s life. This declaration to his son foreshadows how Robinson created more opportunities for the new generation. Another occurrence is when a young Ed Charles (Dusan Brown) goes to watch Robinson play and decides to chase after his dreams of becoming a Major League Baseball player.
The combination of veteran and rookie actors did not diminish the quality of the film. Every role, even the minor ones, was executed with fierce passion and was vital to accurately illustrate Robinson’s experience. Ford stepped into a constricted role by playing an actionless old man, but developed a strong presence through influential quotes. Boseman has a compilation of impactful scenes, but the most powerful moments are when the scenes transcend the game of baseball and seep into the realities of life.
The cast delivers realistic depictions of their characters, which has elevated this sports film above all others. The acting was well done, but not overdone, which tends to happen in sports movies. Boseman does a superb job capturing every emotion Robinson endured.
This is an extremely motivating movie that conjures the feeling that anything is possible. Robinson’s impact on baseball and society is a legacy that remains visible in society today.