Director: Brian Helgeland
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Ryan Merriman, Lucas Black, André Holland, Alan Tudyk, Hamish Linklater
Seen on: 20.4.2017
It is 1946. Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is an excellent baseball player, but confined to the underfinanced, underrecognized and generally looked down upon Negro League due to the color of his skin. But Jackie is also not somebody who accepts things as they are, so when he is approached by Brooklyn Dodgers exec Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) to play as the first black player in the Major League, he takes the chance. But unfortunately not everyone sees Jackie’s potential, most of the people only see the color of his skin – and they are not happy about it.
Baseball is not really my thing, but learning about racism is definitely something I’m trying to do, so I decided to give 42 a chance. And it is a decent, albeit not groundbreaking and surprisingly white film with a fantastic Boseman in the lead.
42 follows the tried and tested movie formula and it does it well. That means that most of the big emotional moments are easily seen from quite a distance, which could take the emotion out of it, but there’s Mark Isham’s score coming to the rescue. It really is one of the strongest things about the film in general and it does not allow you to keep an emotional distance.
Boseman is equally as compelling as the score, though, and gives a wonderfully layered performance as Jackie Robinson; a performance that stands out even more because Ford overdoes it with Rickey who starts to feel more like a cartoon than an actual person (no offense to cartoons who have given us great characters).
I do feel that it was noticeable that the film was written and directed by a white man. Not only are there almost no women in the film (thank goodness for Beharie), the film was also pretty busy to show that a) not all white people are racist assholes and b) most character development was devoted to white people learning that it’s not cool to be a racist asshole. Seriously, it feels like Robinson’s teammates accepting him is more of a character arc than any growing Robinson’s allowed to do in the film. Generally there are really not very many black people in it.
But at least the film is trying, I guess, and Robinson’s story and generally the stories of racial segregation and racism really can’t be told enough – and certainly haven’t been yet. Maybe next time, though, we let black people handle things.
Summarizing: It’s not bad, but it is a very white, albeit well-meaning take on racism.