Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer
The Farewell To Middle-earth Issue
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe: Get 12 Issues For £25
Buy the perfect Christmas present this year
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue
Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Chadwick Boseman
Harrison Ford
Nicole Beharie
Lucas Black.
Directors
Brian Helgeland.
Screenwriters
Brian Helgeland.
Running Time
128 minutes

LATEST FILM REVIEWS
Kingsman: The Secret Service
4 Star Empire Rating
Annie
2 Star Empire Rating
Theory Of Everything, The
4 Star Empire Rating
Bringing Tibet Home
3 Star Empire Rating
Kon-Tiki
4 Star Empire Rating



5 STAR REVIEWS
Leviathan
5 Star Empire Rating
Le Jour Se Lève
5 Star Empire Rating
Tony Benn: Will And Testament
5 Star Empire Rating
Nightcrawler
5 Star Empire Rating
Babadook, The
5 Star Empire Rating

42
A genuine game changer


submit to reddit


Plot
In 1946, baseball impresario Branch Rickey (Ford) shocked a nation by enlisting a young, bewildered Jackie Robinson (Boseman) into his underperforming Brooklyn Dodgers squad and so introduced the first black player into Major League baseball. Facing torrents of racism, Robinson’s unyielding stand transformed the sport forever.


Review
42

The title refers to his shirt number. As the postscript tells us, the only one ever to be retired from the game in honour of its bearer. That bearer was Jackie Robinson (newcomer Chadwick Boseman), whose elevation into baseball’s big leagues brought with it all the sickening bigotry a segregated era could, sometimes literally, throw at him. There could be no reprisals. No anger. He would always be the one blamed. As the Dodgers’ cunning owner, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), makes clear, jabbing at his new recruit to test his mettle, he wants a player “with the guts not to fight back”. Without the catalyst of Robinson’s defiance it is unlikely Obama would have made it to the White House.

In honour of his subject, Brian Helgeland has written and directed an unapologetically strait-laced biopic, sunlit and rich in the alluring rituals and mysteries of the game, but as simplistic, manipulative and undeniably rousing as the piped fanfare of a ballpark organ. Still the most readily mythologised of sports, baseball again takes its place as a metaphor for the ennoblement of America, the soundtrack soaring like a Kevin Costner playlist.

Yet each game represents not so much a sporting contest as the next trial by hatred Robinson will have to endure as he steps up to the plate. Fans torment him from the bleachers, death threats arrive by post, pitchers target his head, an opposing coach (Alan Tudyk) repeatedly taunts him from his dugout, and at one surreal point a police officer strides onto the field and threatens to arrest him if he doesn’t withdraw.

Rickey’s motivation for thrusting Robinson into the cauldron is one of the film’s key hooks. As Robinson keeps pressing, why have you done this? Is it merely the chance to capitalise on the coming cultural upheaval in America? Or some form of genuine, if intangible, decency? Plump, bespectacled and roaring God-fearing mutiny at anyone within earshot, Ford hasn’t enjoyed himself so much for years, creating an unforgettable mix of Daddy Warbucks, Pappy O’Daniel and Confucius. They’ve given Supporting Oscars for far less.

Inevitably, Robinson ends up a saint, but the situation demands it of him — to turn a stadium-sized cheek. He gets a devoted wife (Nicole Beharie), but no demons — he’s tough in the right way, on the field, expressing himself only when dancing between bases like he’s on hot coals, gleefully “discombobulating” his opponents. Boseman’s performance is a model of grace under unimaginable pressure, but Robinson remains an enigma. We are stirred by his achievements but never comprehend their cost.
 


Verdict
Already a hit in America, 42 is a well-told but square biopic doing justice to Jackie Robinson rather than exploring him.


Reviewed by Ian Nathan

Write Your Review
To write your review please login or register.

SUBSCRIPTION OFFERS

SAVE UP TO 69% GET 12 ISSUES FOR ONLY £25
Get the best seat in the house by subscribing to the world's biggest movie magazine today. Save up to 69% and every month you'll get exclusive subscriber-only covers, access to the biggest stars and the best news, reviews and behind-the-scenes reports straight from the set. Click here to find the perfect offer for you


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The biggest, best, brightest and sometimes weirdest films of the coming year

James Cameron Talks Tech, Terminators and Avatar Sequels
An extended version of our interview from our Peter Jackson guest-edited issue

Empire's Three Favourite Scenes Of 2014
A hat-trick of moneyshots from the last 12 months

The 32 Funniest Movie Moments Of The Year
2014's side-splittingest scenes

The 10 Best Games Of The Year
2014's top pixel-pushers duke it out for the number one slot

Dan Stevens: The Breakout Star Of 2014
We congratulate The Guest star on his year to remember

The 15 Most Memorable Character Deaths Of The Year
2014’s RIP honour roll

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)