A Film Review By The Mike

Rating:RATED PG-13 for mild swearing, violence, and sexuality
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Banks
Directed By: Gary Ross

Final Grade:

Hollywood doesn’t seem to churn out films like they used to. But I’ve still believed that that Hollywood magic is still alive, that the studios will manage to produce an old-fashioned classic film that will stand the test of time. They’ve tried greatly over the last year, with disappointing results from films like Gangs of New York, Chicago, and Road to Perdition. Well, the wait is over, and Hollywood has struck gold again with Seabiscuit, the best film yet this year.

Let me get something out of the way now. We all know what has been said prior to this film’s release. Seabiscuit isn’t a film that’s going to surprise you with a slick plot turn. It’s not filled to the brim with catchy dialogue. It’s a film about horse racing, for crying out loud! I’ve heard many disregard the film after only seeing its trailer, usually saying things like they “saw it all in the trailer”, “can’t imagine sitting through a movie about horse racing” or “have seen the actors play that character a dozen times”. It’s definitely not an overly original premise.

Then again, Seabiscuit did surprise me with a plot turn. It did have great dialogue, and more importantly characters that we identify with enough to care for what they’re saying. The story’s based on truth, but – unlike most films that say this – it really does feel true. Even I was skeptical, and agreed with a lot of the complaints in the previous paragraph. But, just like all the others who said those things, I was wrong. Seabiscuit is a film that proves the cynical filmgoer wrong easily.

The film is great in every aspect. For starters, it looks absolutely gorgeous in every shot. Every setting is perfectly drawn up, and the film captures a slice of Americana perfectly at all times. The cinematography is amazing, along with the direction, the editing, the sound…everything is technically amazing, without having to rely on gimmicks and effects.

The casting also couldn’t have been better. Tobey Maguire is perfect as the young jockey, while the aged duo of Bridges and Cooper each give performances that are worth the price of admission. Coming off a well-deserved Oscar win, Cooper gives another Oscar worthy performance, but Bridges outshines him, and I’d bet will be in the running for the award come next February. This trio of stars makes the film live and breathe, but they also get some great support. Elizabeth Banks isn’t famous yet, although some may recognize her from Catch Me If You Can, and her bit appearance in last summer’s Spider-Man. She’s set for a bigger role in that film’s sequel, and after seeing her work here I’m sure she’s destined for great things. A bigger surprise was real-life jockey Gary Stevens as Maguire’s jockey friend/opponent. He doesn’t steal the show, but for someone who’s not really an actor it’s an excellent performance. The film’s best performance might be from the always great William H. Macy, in a comical and brilliant turn as the radio announcer following Seabiscuit’s story. I didn’t look up the horses involved in the film, but they pulled off their roles as horses so well that I couldn’t tell that they were acting. We’ve definitely found the front runners for the Best Performance by a Horse in a Lead Role Oscar category.

Seabiscuit is inspired by a true story, which was then written into a book by Laura Hillenbrand. I don’t know how much of the film is actually true, but I’d like to dream that everything in it is accurate. Interviews with the author that I’ve read say that the film was exactly as she thought it should be and more, another Hollywood rarity.

I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about Seabiscuit. It’s the kind of life-affirming testament to the human spirit that provides a smile to the viewer in every moment. I was truly enamored by every shot, every line, and every sound that the film contained, despite my early reservations. I expected a soggy drama that would be soon forgotten, but what I got was a film that will live in my mind forever as one of the feel-good films of all-time and that should be remembered in most categories come Oscar time (Although I’m sure the Academy will screw it up, they always do). If you’re looking for a chance to get away and to be amazed for a couple of hours, head to the theaters and check out Seabiscuit. It’s just what you’re needing.

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