Five Stars for “42”: True Story of an American Legend

Brian Sommer, Staff Writer

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42, written and directed by Brian Helgeland, is a sports drama about Jack Roosevelt Robinson, commonly known as Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier by becoming the first African American to play in Major League Baseball on April 15, 1947. The movie was released on Friday, April 12, 2013, to rave reviews from critics and fans.

After a long wait for a film about Robinson, Helgeland finally stepped up and directed a film about Robinson and his life before and during his rookie season. Immediately, the film portrays Rickey Branch the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers at the time, played by Harrison Ford. Branch is a man who doesn’t see black and white; he sees a ball player. Branch knows exactly what he is doing when he tells his coach and executive manager that he wants the first African American baseball player to ever play in the major leagues to join the Dodgers.

Robinson, who is portrayed perfectly by actor Chadwick Bosemen, is brought to Branch’s attention by sports writer Wendell Smith, played by Andrew Holland. Smith saw Robinson’s talent playing for the Kansas City Monarchs, in an all-black baseball league. Robinson is then signed with Branch and the Dodgers franchise.

As Robinson arrives to spring training to try out for the team, the players and the coaches feel uncomfortable being on the same field with him. Branch reminds everyone that this is one team, no matter what race the players are. Based off Robinson’s skills on the field and up to bat, he makes the Independent League, Montreal Royals, which is the minor league team for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Finally, the Royals and Dodgers scrimmage against each other, and the players all begin to learn what is soon to come from Robinson as he steals first, second, third, and even home.

As Robinson strives toward becoming a major leaguer, more hatred is built up towards him from the Brooklyn Dodger players. Most of the players are from the south and were born into families who are racists, so, consequently, they are too. Once Robinson makes the Dodgers with a one-year contract for around $400-600/month with a $3500 signing bonus, a majority of the team welcomes Robinson by signing a petition to get him off the team.

Day by day, the film dramatically shows how brutal of a struggle Robinson had endured in his first season, from the hatred he would receive from the men, women, and children in the stands, to the pitches that were thrown at Robinson’s head, to the heckling by opposing team coaches. Throughout all this, Robinson is forced to not fight back and keep his cool.

One incident of this is seen in a game against the Philadelphia Phillies. The opposing manager, Alan Chapman, who is eventually fired, thought it would be a good idea to talk to Robinson and call him names while he was up to bat. Although cruel and uncalled for, Robinson is not allowed to fight back due to his contract.

However, Robinson’s pent up anger does build up. After one at-bat where Jackie doesn’t get a hit, he goes down to the club house, screams, and breaks his bat because he does not know how else to express his anger that he has built up from all of the discrimination against him. The whole scene really is an inspiration because it showed how Robinson managed to keep himself composed through hardship and succeed by playing such a great baseball game.

As the movie ends, Robinson gets up to bat against the Pittsburgh Pirates with the game tied in the final inning. If the Dodgers win this game, they win the National League Pennant. Winning the pennant will allow the Dodgers to move on to the World Series against the New York Yankees. In dramatic fashion, Robinson steps up to the plate and hits a home run to win the game for the Dodgers and send them to the World Series.

Through all the discrimination, Robinson’s athleticism comes into play; it amazes everyone, even the opposing coaches. From this point on, Robinson’s career takes off, and he becomes the player the crowds hear about.

42 receives 5 stars not only just from a film-making standpoint, but also from a historical one. Whether it was during the scenes of the baseball games or the ones when Robinson is just with his teammates, the movie gives a perfect vintage feeling as to how life was for the great Jackie Robinson.

On or off the field, no matter how much discrimination Robinson had taken on, Boseman, as Robinson, and Helgeland, the film’s director, do a fantastic job showing how lighthearted of a person Robinson once was, a person who makes viewers wonder how all these people could hate someone so much just because of skin color. Ford, as Branch, does a great of a job portraying a man who loved the game of baseball and who will be remembered a long time for seeing a person for a person and not a skin color.

Helgeland also does a fantastic job of keeping the audience excited by having fantastic action scenes during games like great shots with great views of fastballs being thrown past the camera to Robinson’s speed around the base paths.

Whether it is as a loving father, husband, teammate, or ball player, Jackie Robinson will always be remembered as a hero thanks to 42 that reminds a new generation how hard this one man fought to be respected as a human being.

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