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Biographical drama about African-American baseball player Jackie Robinson. In 1945, having been spotted by a scout, Robinson is signed by Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey and becomes the first black man to play in the Major League. Despite his talent, Robinson is met with opposition, even from his fellow players, because of his race. As he tries to keep his own frustrations in check, he excels in his sport and gradually receives the recognition he deserves.
For more about 42 and the 42 Blu-ray release, see 42 Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 9, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Brian Helgeland
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Alan Tudyk, Christopher Meloni, Lucas Black, John C. McGinley
» See full cast & crew
42 Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 9, 2013
What would baseball be without Bob Gibson's electric fastball, without Hank Aaron's hammer, without Ricky Henderson's record base stealing speed, without Joe Carter's World Series walk-off home run, without Ken Griffey, Jr.'s sweet left-handed swing, without Andrew McCutchen's infectious personality leading the Pittsburgh Pirates out of 20 years in baseball hell? None of their accomplishments, none of their stand-up-and-cheer heroics, none of their big strikeouts, timely steals, or game-winning hits would be part of Major League Baseball lore without the courage of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in the big leagues, the man who shouldered the weight of ending decades of white-only Major League baseball, the man who carried the hopes, dreams, and futures of an entire people on his broad, heroic shoulders. 42 tells the dynamic tale of one man's determination to break color lines and another man's courage to take that step across the line and play against unprecedented hate and long odds that extended well beyond the field. Ted Williams famously said that the most difficult thing to accomplish in sports is hitting a round ball with a round bat, but for Robinson, playing the game -- and playing it well -- was the easy part. Racial bigotry, raw hatred, misunderstanding, and a fear of the unknown and changing times all contributed to the emotional turmoil that followed Robinson to every stadium, that dogged him with every boo, that stung with every slur and insult. But, as they say, the first step is always the most difficult, and Robinson's perseverance forever changed things for the better, for the better of not only the sport but also the betterment of mankind.
The Brooklyn Dodgers are a quality ball club that's fallen just short of winning the pennant. General Manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), an opponent of racial segregation, decides -- against the advice of his colleagues and against baseball's unwritten segregation rule -- to hand-pick a player from the Negro Leagues to play for his Dodgers, a player he believes who cannot only help the Dodgers secure the pennant and make the club money but also handle the immense pressures of weathering the brewing storm of hate sure to come. Rickey selects Kansas City Monarchs standout infielder Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) who is first assigned to the Dodgers' top Minor League affiliate, the Montreal Royals. Robinson excels on the field but finds himself under constant bombardment from opponents of integration. The strains of his position only increase when, in 1947, he's called up to the Dodgers under intense national scrutiny and forced to battle not only fastballs to the head and endless racial slurs to the ears but also several teammates who disapprove of playing alongside him.
There's a certain "movie of the week" quality to 42 -- it never shows much big, cinematic flair -- but that format works well with the story. Rather than aim for some overly stylized experience that removes the focus from the story and the historical significance thereof and instead places it on how the film looks or feels, audiences are left to experience, almost firsthand, the nearly impossible-to-understand struggles of a baseball -- and a human -- hero-in-the-making, without forced currents or a manipulative heavy hand to interfere with what is one of the most important moments of 20th century America. The movie plays with a straightforward structure that mostly hits the main elements of racism without digging very deeply inside the minds of Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, or any of the other primary players in the story. However, it doesn't really have to. The reality of their experiences speak clearly enough, and the character development is built almost entirely on external factors. This is a story in which there's a symbiosis between what happens outside and what happens inside; the raw emotions, the personal restraint, and the vocalization of the prejudice all shape the internal components as clearly as they can be shaped, and the constant bombardment of exterior negatives only make the end result -- Robinson's success on the baseball diamond as a player and a man both -- all the more impressive.
This isn't a Baseball movie but rather a very human story as told through the prism of baseball. Every baseball scene -- each stolen base, every high-and-tight pitch to Robinson's head, each base hit, every home run -- revolves around Robinson's personal struggles for acceptance and are all part of the greater context of the personal story that's largely defined on the field but fundamentally shaped by attitudes, histories, ideas, hates, fears, and worries made off of it. There's a story beyond the game within every game, each practice, any time Robinson puts on a uniform, catches a ball, or swings a bat. That's why there's an understated feeling to the action. 42 doesn't have the cinematic dazzle of The Natural, for instance -- there are no shattering lights -- but it does have that fundamentally human core to it while still producing some good, intimate baseball action that reinforces the drama and shapes the character. It's much more akin to Field of Dreams, in some ways, in that the movie isn't about sports but rather the human stories that are born of sports and the emotions that flow from them. It all returns to that key principal that 42 remain tightly focused on Robinson and not any peripherals, that his story and all it encompasses be the film's sole focus, with everything pointing towards it rather than drawing attention away from it.
42 also benefits from a seamless period recreation. There's perhaps a slight push towards a warmer, golden, lightly sepia sort of style, but it's not at all overdone. The film looks very natural and authentic, from automobiles to the finest details on heavy old baseball uniforms. The production design effortlessly supports the greater narrative, melting into the background as the center story of Robinson's rise above the hate and settlement into history take shape. Chadwick Boseman plays Robinson with an effortlessness that captures all of the emotions, from the greatest joys to the deepest sorrows, from the biggest successes on the field to the most emotionally wrecking lows born of the bigotry and hatred pushed his way. Boseman understands it's not so much about becoming Jackie Robinson as it is allowing the audience to understand Jackie Robinson. Again, that's 42 not being about anything but the core importance of the story. Harrison Ford plays a gruff but determined Branch Rickey very well, completely disappearing into the part and balancing the historical significance of what he's doing against several backdrops, not only defeating bigotry but making money and winning ballgames. 42 makes it known that dollars and box office returns and fans in the stands and Brooklyn's place in the standings all factor in to bringing Robinson on board. The film might feel a bit thin in places and rather fast-moving through a critical time in history, but it also doesn't sensationalize the tale -- not too much, anyway -- nor does it make it into an unbelievable fairy tale.
42 Blu-ray, Video Quality
42's digital photography sparkles on Blu-ray. While there's a clean appearance to the image, it also captures film-quality textures and colors that both look wonderful in the movie and also bode well for the future of digital to better replicate the appearance of film. This is easily one of the finest-looking digital films yet. Every texture and color is not only in order but the image absolutely dazzles in every shot. Heavier old baseball uniforms, crisp suit jacket lines, light wear and tear on catcher's gear, leathery glove textures, even the sand granules around the diamond look magnificent, extremely well defined up-close and sharp and clear at medium and long distances. The entire image enjoys amazing clarity in all directions and at any distance, whether the finest details or the largest surfaces. Colors, too, are amazingly balanced and brilliantly displayed. While there's a very light warmth to the image, every shade stands out as naturally and, when necessary, vibrantly displayed. Dodger blue looks amazing, but so too do all of the surrounding earth tones on clothes and the baseball diamond. There are some amazingly bright greens around the frame, too, not to mention exciting splashes of red. Black levels are excellent, remaining true to life and displaying no evidence of crush or unnatural brightness. Flesh tones, too, are fine, influenced only by that lightly warm sepia. There's no major evidence of noise, banding, blocking, or other such things. This is a real looker, an excellent transfer from Warner Brothers in every regard.
42 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
42 features an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. There's a seamless stage presence to every scene, whether robust baseball games or quieter dialogue moments. The track handles extremes very well; a rumbling train powers through the stage just as easily as light background noise at an airport gently fills the listening area and recreates the location to sonic perfection. Musical delivery is amazingly clear and precise, enjoying seamless spacing across the front and just the right amount of surround support in the rear. Bass is heavy when necessary but never too rumbly or unkempt. The track seems always naturally spacious and captures every sonic detail with unmissable clarity and realism. Whether bat striking ball, slides in the dirt, or even the echo of the national anthem flowing through stadium speakers in chapter seven, there's never an element that's out of place or out of order. The track naturally and effortlessly submerges the listener in the excitement and drama. This is an amazing presentation from Warner Brothers.
42 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
42 contains three featurettes.
42 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
42 captures the essence of what it took to break baseball's color barrier and also begin a shift towards broader racial equality and acceptance in the United States. While the film proves very well acted and technically faultless, it centers on the human emotion by downplaying any sort of cinematic excess in favor of the story's core drama and historical significance. The film should enjoy wide appeal beyond sports fans for its honest examination of history and its profile in courage. Warner Brothers' Blu-ray release of 42 sadly comes up rather short in terms of extra content, but picture and sound quality are both top-notch. Very highly recommended.
42: The Jackie Robinson Story: Other Editions
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42 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, July 22-28: 42 Stays at First Place - August 1, 2013
For the week that ended on July 28th, Warner Bros again scored the top film on the Blu-ray-only and overall home media sales charts with its release of 42. This was the second consecutive week that director Brian Helgeland's Jackie Robinson biopic dominated small-screen ...
• Blu-ray Sales, July 15-21: 42 Is Safe at First Place - July 25, 2013
For the week that ended on July 21st, Warner Bros scored the top film on the Blu-ray-only and overall home media sales charts with its release of 42. Director Brian Helgeland's biopic about iconic baseball player Jackie Robinson and his early struggles playing ...
• This Week on Blu-ray: July 16-23 - July 14, 2013
For the week of July 16th, Warner Bros. is bringing Brian Helgeland's Jackie Robinson biopic 42 to Blu-ray; it's an absorbing (if overly sanitized) look at one of baseball's most iconic figures. Other releases include the Sylvester Stallone actioner Bullet to ...
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