This is a fine little movie about the entry of Jackie Robinson into major league baseball. What I liked about it is that it didn’t try to do too much — it concentrated on the relationship of Robinson with Branch Rickey (a wonderful scenery-chewing Harrison Ford), racist managers and some of his astonishingly hostile teammates, without trying to make any Grand Statement about Robinson’s place in the history of American civil rights. It’s a great movie if you like baseball — some of the shots showing Robinson stealing bases (a real innovation in white baseball at the time) are very well done, and illustrate how Robinson changed the major-league game. But even if you’re not a fan, the move presents an astonishing snapshot about a time when open bigotry was socially acceptable in American public life. Things really have gotten better.
But maybe not enough better. The early scenes follows Robinson in the minor leagues. In the Deep South of 1947, Robinson couldn’t stay in the same hotel as his teammates, so he bunked with local black families. One night, the family got a call that the Klan was on its way, looking to teach Robinson a “lesson.” He hightailed it out of there. In one of those impossible-to-invent coincidences, that incident occurred in — Sanford, Florida.