42: Jackie Robinson Story Movie Review
While Robinson’s story is one that is already well known by many — not just sports fans — people now have the chance to relive the historic moments with the Warner Bros film “42.” Directed by Brian Helgeland, “42” does an excellent job in showcasing Robinson’s story, both good and bad, while also mixing in some humor.
The movie starts off in 1945 as we’re introduced to Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey, played by Harrison Ford, who is sitting in his office and telling his associates that he has a plan to bring a negro player into the league. Rickey knew the overbearing criticism that would surround him and his organization if he did in fact break the color-barrier.
In a change of scenes, Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is shown being denied the right to use a bathroom at a gas station because of his color. Meanwhile, Rickey is in his office smoking a cigar as he searches through stats, looking for a player to pop out and grab his attention.
And then he finds Jackie Robinson: a 26-year-old with a .350 batting average from UCLA, which proved he had experience playing with “white boys.”
From there on out Robinson’s story is depicted as expected. He signs a deal with the Montreal Royals (Brooklyn’s minor league team), he gets booed by the white people the first time he steps on the field, he shows his lightning fast base-running skills and eventually ends up traveling with the team until he finally lands a spot on the Brooklyn roster.
But “42” isn’t just about what he accomplished on the baseball field, it’s more so about illustrating the character and braveness of Robinson’s heroic breakthrough as the first African American in the league. This was during a time period where colored people had to enter the ballpark through a separate gate, as the movie shows, and yet there’s Robinson on the field fighting segregation.
“42” does an exceptional job at demonstrating the obstacles Robinson had to overcome whether it was the racist name calling, the threats, pitchers intentionally trying to drill him with the ball or even his own teammates trying to start a petition to not play with him.
The film also captures powerful images like Robinson walking through the clubhouse tunnel on Opening Day as the sounds of his cleats echo off the walls, or Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) hugging him on the field before a game, a rare public sign of appreciation Robinson received from his teammates.
However, one of the most impressive aspects of the film is Helgeland’s ability to give the viewers a real-life experience as if the movie were truly shot in the 1940s. The old wagon Dodge vehicles, dial telephones, chalkboards in the managers office and most impressively, Ebbets Field, makes it a truly genuine experience.
The movie offers no dramatic twists or unexpected events. Instead, it is exactly what it’s supposed to be: the telling of one of the greatest stories in history.
Number 42 — a hero, an icon, a legend, and a brilliantly well-done movie.