42 chronicles the legendary Jackie Robinson’s entry into Major League baseball before he became a symbolic number and was simply a man who wanted to play ball.

Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) the head of the Brooklyn Dodgers who is determined to bring a Black player into his organization and win a world series recruits Robinson (Chadwick Boseman). Rickey, fully aware of the controversy and hatred he, the team, and most of all Robinson will face as a result of breaking the color barrier in baseball, refuses to let anyone or anything get in the way of transforming the game he loves. He makes it clear to Robinson that if they are to be successful, he cannot fight back. He must instead win through excellence on the field and restraint in the face of opposition.

The early scenes of Robinson playing with the Dodgers’ minor league team, Montreal not only show Jackie’s gift for stealing bases but his overall smarts and resourcefulness as a player. You get a true sense of how much fun it must have been to watch the real Jackie Robinson on the field. What’s also very clear is the kind of abuse Robinson will face when he moves up to the major leagues and move up he does.

Robinson’s story is a familiar one by now, so familiar that in today’s world we tend to forget what an incredible task he had to accomplish in the segregated America of 1947 that was still years away from the civil rights movement. 42 brings the audience into that time and place to show Robinson not only had to be a superior ball player, he had to be mentally tougher and more disciplined than any other player in order to deliver excellence while under constant verbal, physical and psychological assault.

It’s initially jarring to see Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. It feels as if he’s doing an impersonation but as the film goes on he blends into the character. Ford ends up delivering a believable performance and gives us an appreciation for and insight into Rickey’s staunch belief in what he is doing.

Chadwick Boseman turns in a natural and charming performance as Robinson while also capturing the simmering anger and frustration that Robinson felt at not being able to react to the attacks against him. The film depicts how Dodger players tried to keep him from joining the team by circulating a petition that manager Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni) puts an immediate stop to. Slowly the team comes around, and there are a handful that from the beginning feel Robinson should be judged like everyone else, solely on his merits as a player and a man. One of the film’s more lighthearted moments occurs in the locker room between Jackie and teammate Ralph Branca (Hamish Linklater) whose attempt to make Jackie feel more comfortable is unintentionally comedic and embarrassing.

42 is an inspiring film that humanizes the man behind the legend and illustrates the ugliness of American history along with the possibilities that keep it vibrant. It’s an excellent example of the fact that it takes a few who are willing to risk all in the face of the prevailing attitudes of society to effect lasting change and that indeed turning the other cheek is often the best weapon.


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