“I’m gonna bring a negro ballplayer to the Brooklyn Dodgers,” declared Branch Rickey, Dodgers owner. Rickey articulates slowly, glancing up from his newspaper at other Dodger officials. The mood in the room is still, as if even the walls are waiting in anticipation of the next move. The move was simple. Branch Rickey called up Jackie Robinson, a young 26-year old playing for the Kansas City Monarchs, in the negro leagues. “This is about baseball, Jackie.”
Brian Hegeland’s latest movie, 42, commences in majestic fashion. Hegeland has written in prestigious films such as The Bourne Supremacy, Robin Hood, and Salt; however, 42 is the first film Hegeland has had the reigns of. Hegeland’s plot structure is fast-moving, and eventful. From Robinson escaping death threats in Daytona, to him reflecting on the birth of his first son, Hegeland makes two hours and eight minutes fly by. Throughout the film, Hegeland peppers Robinson with obstacles of his race. Teammates, managers, eve flight attendants suppress Robinson due to the color of his skin. Hegeland captures Robinson’s reactions through distinct close ups to display his emotions.
The cast of 42 certainly shined in their respective roles. The group was highlighted by Harrison Ford, who played the wise Branch Rickey. Rickey spoke in a very slow, nonchalant fashion. Ford made Rickey’s presence felt throughout the film, though he was one of the few who supported Robinson. Ford intentionally lengthens his words, slowly presenting them to the audience. This gives his lines more meaning and punch, and helps to raise the emphasis on Branch Rickey, as owner of the Dodgers A powerful, intelligent man, Ford best evokes Branch Rickey in the line, “I want a player whose got the guts not to fight back.” Lead star Chadwick Boseman played his part to near perfection; thriving in the role of a young man, boseman draws out an edgy charisma about him. Playing a hot-tempered 26-year old, Boseman evokes Robinson’s determination beautifully, highlighting a quarrell with a teammate by shouting. “I’m not going anywhere!”
Throughout the film, plot and camera work become muddled into a collage of cliche. For example, Hegeland deploys the stereotypical walk out of the tunnel, as Robinson enters his first game. The scene is typical as well, as Robinson is pictured in shadow, with the end of the tunnel in bright light. When Jackie Robinson hits a first-pitch home run, groans can be heard from the audience. However, unique elements were mixed in to try to counter this. During many of Robinson’s plate appearances, the sound of the radio broadcaster plays as Robinson’s at bat is pictured. A modern flair is also brushed in, as city lights mimicking the early 2000s are presented. Fountains and lamps near homes and buildings resemble the modern era, making the film more appealing. While these features are interesting, the movie is a rather average portrayal of Jackie Robinson’s travails.
Maybe tomorrow we’ll all wear 43, then they won’t tell us apart” recites Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers captain. This line adds a satisfying finish to the film, and successfully alludes to Major League Baseball’s Jackie Robinson day. Though Major League Baseball players honor Robinson by wearing 42 on this day, this film does not. While the acting is top class, the screenplay and direction make 42 reak with mediocrity. In the end, 42 is no different from numbers one to 41.