Directed by Gary Ross. USA. 2003.
As the film opens, the lives of owner Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges), trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) and jockey Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire) are introduced. Howard is a bicycle shop owner in California who becomes the owner of the largest Buick dealership in the West. A family tragedy and a subsequent divorce, however, leave him without the will to go on. Tom Smith is a laconic ex-cowboy and trainer who has a unique way with horses. The third piece to the puzzle is part-time jockey and prize fighter John "Red". As an adolescent, Pollard (Tobey Maguire) is cut off from his family in Canada and forced to make his way as a journeyman jockey and boxer. The director explains, ôRed lost his family, Howard lost a son and Smith lost his way of life. How do you transcend that kind of pain, overcome the grief?" By the second hour, they have come together to play out their joint destiny.
Pollard conceals his blindness in one eye to ride a small colt named Seabiscuit, bought in Mexico by Howard with Smith's guidance. The horse is a grandson of the great Man 'O War but is considered lazy and difficult to manage. Under Smith's training and Pollard's assistance, the horse begins to realize his potential. Seabiscuit goes on to run in the Santa Anita Derby three times as well as competing in a match race with the Triple Crown winner War Admiral, owned by a wealthy eastern aristocrat. This is the race that captured people's imagination and allowed them to root for the democratic choice, the underdog like themselves. The camerawork makes us feel as if we are part of the action, riding along with the jockeys, listening to the thundering hooves.
is genuinely crowd-pleasing entertainment and I truly enjoyed it, it falls
short of the greatness some critics claim for it. The characters lack dimension
and the film takes too many liberties with the facts, for example, Smith
had been working with racehorses for many years and Pollard had won 53
races on 300 mounts before Seabiscuit. Also, the film's feel-good messages
such as "relief made men feel like men again" sound hollow after numerous
repetition. Perhaps the wasteland of contemporary Hollywood cinema has
made us grasp onto anything that is a cut above the average, but I feel
that it has been over-praised. Yet Seabiscuit does give us something
to cheer about and, with outstanding performances from the three leads
and an off-the-wall comic performance by William H. Macy as radio announcer
Tick-Tock McGlaughlin, it crosses the finish line far ahead of the summer
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