Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie
Director: Brian Helgeland
Running Time: 128 mins
42 is an American film about the story of legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson, who became the first professional black player in the MLB, paving the way for greater equality in the sport.
Both a gripping biographical drama and a passionate account of the push for racial equality in the modern day, 42 is an utterly fascinating watch, brought to life by enthralling historical detail and a powerful lead performance from Chadwick Boseman. At times, the film does admittedly fall foul to some fairly cheesy tropes, but that still doesn’t take away from the resonance of its central drama.
There’s a lot to admire about 42, but above all, its message is absolutely fantastic. Not only does it provide a passionate and sobering account of the horrifying racism and prejudice African-Americans were subject to in the post-war years, but it’s able to blend that central theme with the film’s sporting context.
So, not only does 42 provide a thought-provoking story about discrimination, but also about how a talented, passionate black baseball player found himself at the centre of repeated abuse despite simply sharing the same ambition as his teammates: playing baseball.
In that, this film is just as powerful a sporting drama as it is a social one. Fans of baseball will know the story of Jackie Robinson well, but for those without a background in the sport, 42 provides a gripping account of the legendary player’s career, and his impact not just on the racial diversity of baseball, but also how the sport itself was played.
That combination of resonant and hard-hitting drama with impressively detailed and undeniably entertaining sporting intrigue is what really makes 42 stand out, proving an utterly enthralling watch throughout as it recounts Robinson’s astonishing legacy.
But beyond the story, the performances bring an extra level of energy and power to the table here. Above all, Chadwick Boseman is fantastic in the lead role, portraying Robinson with an incredible combination of fire and understated assurance.
As we see Robinson come up against hateful discrimination at every turn, he finds himself stuck between fighting back – as his heart tells him to – or turning the other cheek – as those around him tell him to. In showing that, Boseman is able to bring across that inner frustration the great player would have felt in those almost daily situations, showing his rage and confusion while retaining an assured and level head.
There are elements of some of the rest of the film’s performances, namely Harrison Ford’s, which feel a little on the cheesy side. The mentor-mentee relationship between Ford and Boseman doesn’t quite work, coming across as a bit Disneyfied and a far cry from the harder-hitting drama that really makes this film shine.
Overall, though, 42 is a fantastic watch throughout. More than just another biopic, the film details the career of legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson with passion, energy and immense relevance to the modern day. It’s a great sporting drama and even greater portrayal of the prejudice faced by African-Americans through history and into the present day. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.