I was born the year before Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers which was 1947. America, at the beginning of ubiquitous change, saw its national pastime undergo a major change: the integration of black athletes into its ranks. Jackie Robinson, a fleet deer, a powerful slugger, an adaptible human, took the challenge and opened the world of major league baseball to black ballplayers.
The lead role of Jackie is sustained by Chadwick Boseman, who will be a superb actor in years to come. Physically, they couldn’t have selected a better person. Acting, he’s fine. He captures the emotion well that Robinson must have felt at the constant racial epithets to which he was subjected by vicious rednecks.
But the performance of Boseman is overshadowed by that of Harrison Ford in an inspired casting choice. I went a bit leery at seeing Han Solo, or Indiana Jones, appearing as Branch Rickey. Yet there is no hint of another character other than Mr. Rickey, who was one of the most famous wheeler dealers in the history of baseball. Ford is flawless in his performance, caustic, cigar chomping, brusque and competent. Watching him deal with one of the most revolutionary moments in the history of sports should be required in any acting class.
The movie is not without flaw, to be sure. We find ourselves unsure of any of the main characters’ names, despite the fact that the ’47 and ’48 Dodgers were terrific. The manager of the Dodgers as we begin the movie is the famous Leo Durocher, but when he’s fired for horsing around with Laraine Day (historically accurate, to be sure) another manager named Burt is brought in. Okay, I think it was Burt Schotten, but I don’t remember Dodger history all that well. I do remember Ralph Branca, and of course shortstop PeeWee Reese, who famously befriended and accepted Robinson. But to slur over their names is unfair.
Not the best movie of the year, no. Still it was entertaining and a lot better than I was expecting. It could become regarded as one of the best baseball movies of all time. <