Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) owns the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1940’s New York. Like a soothsayer, he has a vision of the sports' future and it includes adding black athletes. Easier said than done, however, in pre-civil rights movement America. In the '40s, the South was still segregated with whites-only bathrooms and drinking fountains, not to mention that former slaves and slave owners were still among the living.
Rickey’s scouts find Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman), a black athlete rising as a shortstop in the Negro Leagues. Rickey makes Robinson an offer to start playing in his minor-league team in Montreal with the aim of getting him to Brooklyn, if Robinson can stomach the racist bullying.
Rickey tells Robinson it’s going to be hellish but Robinson must have the courage not to fight back, otherwise critics will pounce on him for being violent and out of control. Robinson finally makes it to the Dodgers and the overt racism nearly breaks his spirit. Even his own teammates sign a petition to remove Robinson, but Rickey refuses to cave.
In one scene, Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) spews racial vitriol at Robinson, using the n-word over and over. As much as Robinson wants to clobber the man, he knows the only thing he can do is beat him at his own game — and he does.
Chadwick Boseman is fantastic as Robinson, capturing his base-stealing moves with the intensity of a threatened spider about to attack. Harrison Ford plays Rickey as a forward-thinking Methodist who wants to do right by his lord and shepherd in the social changes he knows are long overdue.
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