42 is a film that prides itself on presenting a realistic look into an era of American history, from its opening credits which feature real news and TV reels to its actors, who bring to life characters straight out of the pages of sports footage, newspaper articles and a slew of other historical documents. Before audiences are introduced to the story of Jackie Robinson, they are introduced to the political climate of baseball at the beginning of the narrative, thanks to a short newspaper article shared with us by journalist Wendell Smith (Andre Holland).
We soon meet Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), a great athlete who is unhappy with the status quo. His partner, Rachel (Nicole Beharie), is equally feisty, and when Robinson is given the opportunity to play big league ball thanks to legendary baseball mind Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), the two jump at the chance to support the African American community on the baseball field.
Legendary’s movie spends a lot of time building up the history present in the film by introducing us to famous places like Ebbets Field, famous players like Pee Wee Reese (Lucas Black) and Eddie Stanky (Jesse Luken), and even famous racists like Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk). The most amusing performance is a small one put in by John C. McGinley as the famous radio personality, Red Barber. While the performances are enchanting and make for a fun game of Who’s Who, the baseball is actually a lot of fun, too.
If you get into the special features on the disc, they’ll go into the lengthy baseball training camp all of the actors had to participate in. Through sheer practice, plenty of takes, and some camera tricks, the baseball in the movie is lifelike and lively—especially when Robinson is doing his thing and stealing bases. I’m not sure any of the plays beat Gina Davis’ incredible splits catch in A League of Their Own, but the plays in 42 feel somewhat less gimmicky.
The tone and pace of 42 make it seems as if it was a movie that could have been and maybe should have been made fifteen years ago, but thanks to its fun view into a window of history as well as its performances, it’s still an enjoyable watch.
You can order 42 over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature: The best special feature is the set of “Stepping into History” extras, which gives some historical context to the people and places that appear in the film. Extensive interview footage is available from cast members including Ford and Boseman, who talk about the process of getting into the character and making the movie feel as realistic as possible.
Other Special Features:
“The Legacy of the Number 42”