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Capturing the moment

BRIAN HELGELAND’S latest film is steeped in nostalgia without ever being sentimental. Its title, “42”, is the number on the back of the jersey worn by its hero, Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), a gifted player who broke the colour bar in baseball.

Robinson played himself in “The Jackie Robinson Story”, which was released in 1950 when the violence that led to the civil-rights movement was raging. The fact Mr Helgeland’s script sticks closely to the narrative of that film means audiences are hearing Robinson’s story the way he wanted it told, as a manual of non-violent resistance to injustice.

Harrison Ford plays Branch Rickey, the major-league baseball executive who recruited Robinson to be the first black player in the league. Mr Ford brings authority as well as a touch of celebrity to the film, and he is rewarded with some of its best lines. “Robinson is a Methodist,” Rickey explains to a worried colleague. “I’m a Methodist. God is a Methodist. So we’re going to do just fine.”

Mr Helgeland mines the imagery of old sports movies to show the way Robinson faced up to a series of ferocious pitchers. And he skilfully uses symbolism from 1940s films to create a national mood that harks back to a gentler time. “42” is a tribute to a post-war America in which sports stars had not yet been corporatised and the victory over fascism abroad was a recent memory. The fact that this week’s Boston bombs were detonated on what has come to be called “Jackie Robinson Day” makes his film seem more poignant.

source: http://www.economist.com/news/books-and-arts/21576369-new-film-about-jackie-robinson-surprise-hit-pitched-back-past?fsrc=rss%7Cbar


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