Seabiscuit (2003)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 7.7/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

SEABISCUIT (2003) - Gary Ross

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. Known as the longest, most widespread, and deepest depression of the 20th century, it began in the late 20s and lasted until the early 40s.

Behind this melancholia is a Thoroughbred undersized racehorse named Seabiscuit. From an unfavorable start, Seabiscuit became an unlikely champion and a symbol of hope to many Americans during the time period. Seabiscuit became the subject of the movie industry. In the year 2003, Seabiscuit was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Seabiscuit is the second film directed by Gary Ross, who did Pleasantville five years ago. The film also stars Tobey Maguire, this time as the principal jockey Red Pollard. Assisting Maguire are the talented actors Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper, the owner and trainer of the horse respectively. Unquestionably, Seabiscuit is a biographical film that bases itself on the life and racing career of Seabiscuit as well as the human characters around the horse.

The story bears a similar structure to other sports "underdog" movies like Cinderella Man, but here, the narrative is much slower, necessarily slower. It begins by exhibiting the conflict between the automobile and the horse. We are introduced with Jeff Bridges' character, originally a car salesman. After a family tragedy, he alternates into becoming a horse owner. Here, he meets Tobey Maguire and Chris Cooper. Soon enough, this character triangle becomes connected by the outcasted horse Seabiscuit.

Emphasizing more on characters this time by Gary Ross, Seabiscuit strives with characterization. Never once in the movie was the horse viewed like a human. It was always a horse, perhaps barely even aware of the dread around "him". Maguire has played one of his most serious roles here, the complete antithesis of his character in Pleasantville. He commits his whole heart and soul into the race as Jeff Bridges, a wonderful actor, progresses towards more and more wisdom. Chris Cooper, despite usually playing extremely minor roles, displays great emotion in Seabiscuit, due to his unaccountable faith in the horse.

Despite him focusing more on characters this time, director Ross still kept his art direction talent. In his previous film, he successfully brought the world of a 50s suburban town to life. Here, he brought the despair of the Great Depression to life. The things that everyone wears, the dirt and mud on their faces, their ripped hats and pants, all pave the way for historical accuracy. Ross did what great directors do best at which is taking a story and bring the setting to life, making the difference between seeing the time period and living it.

The directing on a technical basis is fascinating as well. Ross has taken his simplicity and raised it to the next level. He knows the best ways to transition scenes and time sequences. He knows how to make the horse races thrilling to watch. With the help of the cinematographer, Ross gets astonishingly close to the action, so close that we as observatory audience members will question where the camera is sitting at. We are suspended among several races at once, and at times, right in between two of the racers. Not only it gives a sense of the amount of passion Maguire and the horse has, but it also gives an atmosphere of the intensity of horse-racing. I was never a fan of horses, but Seabiscuit is engaging enough to let that interest slip by.

In conclusion, Seabiscuit is an inspiring film. It is not the greatest work of art, but it tells its simple story with great dignity. The most impressive element in Seabiscuit is Gary Ross. This is his second film, and he already has a clear and confident vision on how to execute the story at its best. It delivers in an old-fashioned way with beautiful cinematography. With great performances and uncontrived sparks of drama, it is extremely difficult to not root for Seabiscuit.


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