Field Of Dreams Movie Review

Briefly, the plot of Field of Dreams: A thirty-something man hears voices from a Higher Power, abandons his ties to his family, wanders the earth gathering a passel of believers, suffers the mocking laughter of his townspeople but soon redeems himself, and, finally, is reconciled with his father. Say what you want about Kevin Costner, but you can't say he never played Jesus Christ.

In the '90s, Costner's messianic ambitions - his belief that his aw-shucks Everyman demanded an epic canvas to match his bank account - produced some of the worst films ever made. But his attitude works perfectly in 1989's Field of Dreams (based on the book Shoeless Joe) because the setting is appropriately modest; if we could never buy him as a post-apocalyptic savior, he's just fine as a middle-class hero. Costner plays Ray Kinsella, a rat-race refugee who's moved his wife Anni (Amy Madigan) and daughter Karin (Gaby Hoffmann) to a farmhouse in Iowa. One evening, alone amongst the corn, Ray hears a voice tell him, "If you build it, they will come." A vision of a baseball field is presented before him, and he immediately sets to work re-creating it, believing that it might help him better understand his late father, from whom he was long estranged.

A born baseball obsessive, this is Ray's sweetest fantasy made real, and director Philip Alden Robinson is careful to give this all to us gently, with lots of summer-twilight orange light and lilting humor. And then Shoeless Joe (Ray Liotta), the disgraced Chicago White Sox player, arrives on the field, curious about this new place but clearly feeling at home. It prompts the pitch-perfect exchange between Joe and Ray that's now the movie's hallmark: "Is this heaven?" "No, it's Iowa."

Of course, everyone else thinks Ray's gone barking mad - his quixotic actions have threatened both his goodwill and livelihood. But Ray persists, and his energy lifts the film as he crosses the country, bringing two great cameo appearances into the film. As the aging Dr. Archie "Moonlight" Graham - who in his youth played precisely half an inning of pro ball - Burt Lancaster acts with sweetness and precision, like a Norman Rockwell painting made real. But it's James Earl Jones, as the J.D. Salinger-esque '60s author Terence Mann, who gives the movie the final push into believability and poetry that it needs. It's also his finest moment as an actor; his penultimate speech about the enduring power of baseball is so heart-bustingly inspirational that Ken Burns needed a 19-hour documentary to match its spirit. (Though Burns made room for Negro League players, which Field of Dreams embarassingly doesn't.)

Field of Dreams, despite a script with Capra-like levels of Old Fashioned American Goodness, is one of the most daring Hollywood films of the '80s. It asks us to suspend our disbelief more than any movie that doesn't feature lasers and robots, builds its plot around an esoteric era of sports history most people care nothing about, and suggests that a man who befriends ghosts and endangers his family is a hero. But sinuously, these plot threads wend their way through the film, sensibly and believably, so that when we're hit with a double-whammy of tear-jerking plot twists, we don't feel manipulated or bullied into responding. It holds up a mirror to our own dreaming, sounds back the hopeful voices in our heads, and makes it all feel right and perfect. It's the sort of thing that Hollywood promises to give us every week but, too often, fails to deliver.


Field Of Dreams Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG, 1989


More Kevin Costner

'Draft Day' Tries To Break Out Of Sports-Movie Ghetto

American sports films have a notoriously difficult time travelling abroad, mainly because no one else on earth cares quite as much about US baseball, basketball...

Draft Day Movie Review

Essentially this year's Moneyball, but set in American football rather than baseball, this fast-paced drama is brightly made with an especially strong cast. But only...

'3 Days to Kill' Combines Themes of Luc Besson's World

French writer-director-producer Luc Besson has created an entire industry by bringing American stars to Europe and turning them into action heroes in movies that oddly...

3 Days to Kill Movie Review

French filmmaker Luc Besson continues to combine family themes with intense violence (see Taken), but at least this film has a wry sense of humour...


Kevin Costner's 'Field Of Dreams' Celebrates 25th Anniversary With Baseball Game

Kevin Costner spent Father's Day recreating iconic scenes from the 1989 film Field of Dreams in which he starred. The film is celebrating its 25th...

A Week In Movies: Spider-Man Hits London, Aniston Films In LA, Trailers Arrive For Shaun And Earth To Echo, And A Short Film Teases Martin's Trek Home

Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan and director Marc Webb were all in London to walk the red carpet at the world premiere...

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Shields Off The Competition To Top Box Office

Captain America: The Winter Soldier fought off some pretty serious opposition to maintain its position at the top of the box office, while three newcomers...

'Draft Day' Reviews: 'Moneyball' Is Still The Underdog Sports Film To Watch

The people behind ‘Draft Day’ are probably getting a little bit tired of comparisons to 'Moneyball', the Brad Pitt-starring 2011 hit, but given that the...