Reel Critics: '42' hits a grand slam

It's only April, but a leading contender for this year's Best Picture award is already in a theater near you. "42" is the absolutely compelling story of Jackie Robinson. He was the first African American ever to play Major League Baseball and wore that famous number on his uniform.

Chadwick Boseman will certainly earn a Best Actor nod for his outstanding portrayal of the legendary man who endured insult and injury to break the color barrier of big-time sports. He captures the conflicting forces of raging anger and joyful hope that rained down on Robinson day after day.

Harrison Ford gives the performance of his life as Branch Rickey, the crusty general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Rickey put his own career on the line to advance the cause of desegregating baseball. Ford brings the right combination of cantankerousness and thoughtful kindness, as needed, during the ordeal of Robinson's first year in the majors.

Brian Helgeland wrote the screenplays for Oscar-winner "L.A. Confidential" and Oscar-nominated "Mystic River." His considerable talents are on display as both the writer and director of this historical American saga.

He delivers a first-rate baseball action movie. But he also presents an unflinching look at the offensive racial prejudice of post-World War II America. This uplifting and historic film deserves to be seen. It will be a serious contender for Academy honors.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

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