dir-scr Brian Helgeland
prd Thomas Tull
with Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Ryan Merriman, Lucas Black, Andre Holland, Hamish Linklater, Alan Tudyk, TR Knight, Max Gail, Jesse Luken, John C McGinley
release US 12.Apr.13, UK 13.Sep.13
13/US Warner 2h08
Breaking barriers: Boseman and Ford

beharie meloni black
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
42 Writer-director Helgeland mines a true story for punchy themes about equality and justice, while also depicting an iconic figure who had just the right skills to shift American society on its axis. It's a moving, involving film that's packed with both snappy characters and a real sense of momentous history. As a result, Helgeland gets away with rather a lot of shameless sentimentality.

In 1945 America, black baseball players are sidelined in their own league while much of the country still has segregation laws on the books. Then Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey (Ford) decides to crush the barrier, making young Jackie Robinson (Boseman) the first black player in the Major League. A principled man with a very strong will, Jackie takes the challenge with the help of his feisty wife Rachel (Beharie), the team's no-nonsense manager Leo (Meloni) and a young journalist (Holland). But it takes awhile to win over his teammates.

Boseman shines in a star-making role as a charmer with nerves of steel. His sensitive performance helps us feel the astonishing discipline Robinson must have had in the face of such appalling racism. Meanwhile, it's great to watch Ford tackle a rare character role in the gruff, religious Rickey, who simply won't tolerate bigotry within his club. And the supporting cast adds subtle depth when needed, as Helgeland's canny script balances earthy emotions with the inspirational story.

Importantly, the film portrays endemic racism honestly: it's hideously ugly, and not easy to watch, especially since we suspect it was probably a lot worse than this. Helgeland directs each scene with flair, drawing out the players' cheeky personalities to make them thoroughly involving. Jackie's first spring training game is hilarious, even amid the boos and catcalls. And when he encounters people who are compassionate and fair, the film is deeply moving.

With an eye for telling detail and superb period touches, the film sometimes threatens to become too inspirational (due largely to Mark Isham's surging score), but it continually captures moments that remind us how crucial this story is: a vivid depiction of how difficult it is to change the world. Even though Robinson comes across as an almost super-hero, it's impossible to understate his impact. Indeed, Robinson's jersey number 42 became the first ever officially retired across all baseball teams.

cert 15 themes, language 8.Sep.13

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