MRR Movie Review: Seabiscuit


Rating: PG-13 (some sexual situations and violent sports-related images)

-- Length: 140 minutes
Release Date: July 25, 2003
Directed by: Gary Ross
Genre: Drama / History / Sport

"Seabiscuit" is an action-packed story of an unlikely hero and a hodgepodge team of men that reach an unimagined level of success. Millionaire Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) is desperate for a sense of normalcy after his failed first marriage and the death of his son. In order to rebuild his life, he and his new wife Marcela (Elizabeth Banks) set out to make a living in horse racing. His efforts lead him to Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), a devoted trainer who chooses Seabiscuit, an undersized thoroughbred with a partial limp, to be their champion horse. Because of these drawbacks, the horse is a joke in the racing world. Despite the horse's less-than-stellar attributes, Smith sees potential in him and is convinced he can be a winner.

Howard and Smith choose Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire) to be Seabiscuit's jockey, a troubled man who gains a mysterious connection with the horses he rides. Seen as too large for jockeying, Pollard struggles with his weight, making him just as much of an underdog as Seabiscuit. With his tenacious temperament, Red is just the right man to guide the horse to success.

These three men begin their journey with Seabiscuit, slowing enrolling him in race after race. With each race, Seabiscuit seems to be more and more of an underdog against his competitors, but proves the naysayers wrong with win after win. The horse quickly gains notice, capturing the hearts of the people who have been hit hard by the bleak times of the Great Depression.

Already a terrific tale in itself, director Gary Ross takes the film to new heights with carefully constructed moments that resonate effortlessly across the theater. No scene is too grand, but the power and emotion of the film are palpable. The movie truly takes on a life of its own with a closer look at how Seabiscuit went on to become the champion he was.

The cinematography is spot on, allowing the audience to feel as if they're really a spectator of the race in person. With hooves pounding and sweeping views of the action, it's hard not to lose yourself in the racing scenes. Ross created a masterpiece that brought the long-dead horse and his story back to life.

With its heart-pounding, neck-and-neck horse races and bursts of activity, the film brings its fair share of energy to the screen. Forget lulls in action, as "Seabiscuit" will leave audiences in suspense as the story unfolds, unleashing their inner competitor as they root for the underdog horse.

The action of the film balances nicely with the softer elements. "Seabiscuit" is very much a movie with a heart, packed to the brim with emotions from sadness to triumph. The overall underdog theme of the movie makes it a hit emotionally, as the second chances Pollard and Seabiscuit were given were incredible. Initially ignored and cast aside, the two went on to achieve greatness. This powerful message sinks in, giving the audience a burst of hope and inspiration. The tale is truly heartwarming and will leave viewers with a sense of satisfaction as they leave their seats.

Maguire is terrific as Pollard, perfectly bringing to life a troubled man with a passion. He fully takes on the role with his wiry frame and comfort around horses, easily fooling audiences into believing he's a jockey, not an actor. While deeply disturbed and down, Maguire's character is also likeable, making the audience root for him just as much as they do for the horse. This is a rare find in a film, as troubled characters can typically get stale after a while. Maguire and Bridges created a believable father-son relationship that both their characters desperately needed.

Cooper is magnificent in his role, fully earning his Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Though soft spoken and understated, his performance is incredibly moving. He plays a man that connects better with horses than his fellow man, and he commits to the role firmly. His devotion to all things equine is believable, and he truly appears to be a man that lives for horses. The strong connection between his character and horses is easily felt, something that could have been missed entirely if played by an amateur.

"Seabiscuit" is a must-see for action-packed fun with a touch of emotion. Audiences will fall in love with the classic colt and his heartwarming tale of triumph.

Rating: 4 out of 5