Movie Review by Reece De Ville
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, David McCullough William H Macy
Director: Gary Ross
The subject of horse racing hasn’t exactly provided the most awe inspiring of spectacles for cinema goers throughout the years (see CHAMPION and NATIONAL VELVET). Essentially, you either love or loathe horse racing, which instantly cuts down your potential audience. (“Say, anyone wanna go see that new horse racing film?” …Silence).
However, SEABISCUIT rises above such a fate by aiming its attentions on the relationship triangle between lost souls Jockey Red Pollard (Maguire) businessman Charles Howard (Bridges) and Cowboy Tom Smith (Cooper) which forms the heart of the story. And what a story it is. Ross’s assured direction envelops the audience in rich period detail as his camera catches not only the thundering excitement of the races themselves, but also the great depression and the effects on the American public. It is this concentration on the finer details of the period that ultimately helps lift this true story from the realms of ‘movie of the week’ status.
The remarkably layered story of SEABISCUIT sees the coming together of Pollard, Howard and Smith as they struggle to cope with the end of one era and the beginning of another. Through poverty and tragedy, the trio find themselves drawn together as they encounter another survivor, SEABISCUIT. Here was a horse that had been forgotten by his owners and left to grow wild and untameable – a connection that Pollard sees in himself when he is hired to ride the future champion.
Ross has assembled the cream of the crop (excuse the pun) with even the supporting characters offering stand out turns. William H Macy as the comic radio announcer Tick Tock McGlaughlin – “One comeback I can take, but two? Who’s next? Lazarus?” – provides hilarious relief from the pressure cooker of the races (shot so as to put the audience right in the saddle) and adds another dimension to a film packed with tightly scripted characters. Indeed, the race sequences bring a whole new dimension to the sport of horse racing evoking the style of Spielberg’s opening Normandy salvo in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN for its sheer grit and ferocity.
Perhaps the film is slightly overlong coming in at just under 3 hours, yet it’s running time is arguably necessary with 3 central character (4 if you count the titular equine champion) story arcs to squeeze in. The title SEABISCUIT is questionable too when you consider how hard it may initially be to pull in the kind of audience that are not usually au fait with horse racing. However, here is where we sit back and credit the cinema going public with a modicum of intelligence to look beyond the mere title of a movie (ATTACK OF THE CLONES please stand up).
SEABISCUIT really is a good old-fashioned Hollywood ‘triumph over adversity’ biopic that deserves to be enjoyed by all ages.