Blackball

Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper & Toby Maguire
Written and directed by Gary Ross.
Running Time: 141 mins
Rated:

Seabiscuit is a winner.

The true story of an underdog thoroughbred who lifts America's spirits at end of the Great Depression, Seabiscuit is welcome relief from the deluge of exploding comic book sagas Hollywood has pumped out recently.
In place of computer generated fight scenes and mindless dialogue, Seabiscuit dusts off some old-fashioned cinema technologies: An exciting script, great performances, and beautiful cinematography by John Schwartzman. The race scenes in particular are breathtaking and proof you do not need a computer to shoot beautiful action sequences.

The film follows three very different men - a businessman, a horseman and a jockey - as they overcome economic adversity and personal hardship, eventually coming together to achieve something grand. Cooper gives another inspired performance as the "old hand" Tom Smith, Seabiscuit's trainer. Real-life jockey Gary Stevens excels as onscreen jockey Gary Woolf. And William Macy's near caricature portrayal of radioman, Tick Tock McGlaughlin, provides gleeful comic-relief.

Critics have argued the film steers away from the tawdry underside of the "Sport of Kings" and all but ignores the fact that gambling was the primary driver of horse-racing's popularity in the 1920s and 30s. What it gives up in historical accuracy, Seabiscuit more than makes up for with thrilling story-telling.

At next years' Oscars, Seabiscuit will probably end-up the place or show horse behind the final installment of Lord of the Rings, but that doesn't make it anything short of a great ride!

Harden Grace is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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