Rickey knew that hiring a black player was the right thing to do, and a good business move at the same time. He also knew what kind of man it would take to endure the challenges and humiliations of being the first man of color in an all-white baseball league. Newcomer Chadwick Boseman does a fine job as Robinson, who not only had to win over racist fans, team owners and managers but some of his own teammates, as well. His skill and strength of character did just that, one convert at a time.
Ford’s performance is said to be an accurate impression of the colorful Rickey, but it’s a bit too calculated for my taste. It may just be that I can’t easily accept the familiar Ford as this likably eccentric individual. Either way, the performance adds a note of Hollywood corn to an otherwise straightforward telling of this groundbreaking story. Nevertheless, writer-director Brian Helgeland brings it all home because the raw material is just so strong.
I’ve become gun-shy about trusting any film that’s telling a true story, so I don’t know how accurate 42 is; diehard baseball fans will know better than I. But it does hit the essential points of a great American saga, one that every young person ought to know and some of us older viewers ought to know better. That’s what matters most.
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