42 Movie Review

What could easily have been a sentimental slog is given a spark of intelligent wit by writer-director Helgeland (A Knight's Tale). This is the story of an iconic figure from American sport who had a massive impact on society at large, and Helgeland focusses on the elements we can most readily identify with while quietly stressing how important and, yes, inspirational this story is.

In 1945 post-War America, most states still have segregation laws on the books, and black baseball players are sidelined in their own league. But Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Ford) wants to break this barrier, and drafts Jackie Robinson (Boseman), making him the first black player in the Major League. Jackie is a determined, principled young man who struggles to hold his tongue in the face of blatant bigotry. But he gets help from Branch and team manager Leo (Meloni), and support from his equally feisty wife Rachel (Beharie). There's also a young black journalist (Holland) who works with him to further both their causes. But it takes Jackie a little longer to win over his teammates.

The film portrays endemic racism as the hideously ugly thing it is: socially accepted cruelty and prejudice. In truth, it was probably a lot worse than shown here, but we certainly don't miss the point. Especially since this kind of abusive language is never heard in today's politically correct climate. And Helgeland also creates complex characters who can't be tagged as heroes or villains, played with cheeky energy by a very strong cast. Boseman oozes charisma in the central role, undercutting what could be a too-saintly characterisation with sensitivity and steeliness. And Ford shines in a rare character role as a cantankerous old guy who simply won't take no for an answer.

In fact, the film's only weak point is Mark Isham's far-too-inspirational score, which constantly surges to punch every key moment. But that's a minor quibble when Helgeland crushes any potential schmaltz with dry wit, dark drama and a realistic attention to period detail. So in the end we can't help but feel the importance of Jackie's achievements both on and off the field. He was a reluctant hero who rose to the challenge and changed the world in the process. So it's not surprising that his jersey number 42 is the only one retired by every baseball team on earth.


42 Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: 12, 2013


More Chadwick Boseman

Stan Lee Confirms Marvel Have Started On 'Black Panther' Movie

You can always rely on Stan Lee to let us know what Marvel are doing behind closed doors. The legendary comic book writer , 91,...

Surprise, "Guardians Of The Galaxy" Is About To Take The Weekend Box Office, By A LOT

Yes, hello, Guardians of the Galaxy is blowing up this weekend’s box office. In other news, the Earth is round (well, it’s an oblate spheroid,...

A Week In Movies: Get On Up Premieres, Cooper Cooks In London, Trailers For Tusk, Mockingjay, The Hobbit And Mad Max

The stars came out for the New York premiere this week of Get on Up, starring Chadwick Boseman as Godfather of Soul James Brown. He...

Reviews Round-Up: Critics Fall For The James Brown Biopic 'Get On Up'

The story of American funk, soul and dance legend James Brown is set to be portrayed on the big screen Brown’s music is some of...


Chadwick Boseman Faced A Challenge With James Brown Portrayal, Will He Reap The Benefits Come Awards Season?

The reviews are in – Chadwick Boseman makes a star turn as James Brown in Get On Up. Judging by the GIFs, he’s definitely got...

Chadwick Boseman Was Hesitant About Starring In The James Brown Biopic "Get On Up"

Chadwick Boseman is quickly becoming Hollywood’s go-to man to portray cultural and historical icons. After playing baseball legend Jackie Robinson in 42, the 32-year-old actor...

A Week In Movies: Guardians Holds Two Premieres, Plus First Glimpses Of Fifty Shades, The Imitation Game And Mad Max: Fury Road

In the wake of especially strong buzz from critics who have seen the film, the cast of assembled for their world premiere in Los...

Chadwick Boseman Makes His Entrance At The 'Get On Up' NY Premiere - Part 5

The stars of James Brown biopic 'Get On Up' including leading man Chadwick Boseman arrive for the New York premiere of the movie which was...