This is quite possibly the best film I've seen all year. The story is nothing short of amazing, and that much more impressive because so much of it (if not pretty much all of it) holds true to real life. I actually saw people crying so intensely that they had to leave their seats. But the deeply emotional reactions weren't for depressing events such as death or illness so much as for the more uplifting emotional aspects. It was for the amazing courage and the inner strength shown in so many people (and horses) as well as the many touching turns the story took. The screenplay, the casting, the cinematography, the music... They all contributed to the overall feel of the film and the feeling lasted long after I walked back out into the light of day.
This is the story of numerous underdogs and lost souls, the most famous of which is Seabiscuit. I have to admit that going into this I really didn't know anything about this horse. The pre-release hype was enough to tell me that he had been very big back in the depression era but that was about it. If you don't know the story I'm not going to ruin it for you, but Seabiscuit was a race horse that caught the heart of America at a time when it deeply needed something to believe in. He didn't start out very well and was much smaller than most of the others, making him the obvious underdog. And what do underdogs do but come from behind to shine... And Seabiscuit certainly did.
So many things come together to work beautifully in this film. The beautiful story only helps them along. Honestly, one of the best casting decisions they made never even showed up on screen. David McCullough (II) is the narrator and I can't imagine a single person in the world who could have done a better job. Much of the effectiveness of this film comes from the way it ties the story together with the backdrop and the period right from the beginning. And nobody can do that better than David McCullough. I've heard his voice in countless documentaries and his style was just what was needed. It worked perfectly as it slid slowly between the black and white stills depicting the back story. His voice might have been slow but it gave the film a much needed mood from the very beginning. Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper (I) give absolutely wonderful performances, more in their subtlety than anything... They both have countless problems of their own, paralleling Seabiscuit in a way. One has been left behind because of his own failures and faults and the other is looking for somebody to support and help succeed after he couldn't be there when somebody needed him most. But for me it was once again Tobey Maguire who stole the show. He has so much emotion and depth, really pulling you into everything and making sure you stay involved.
Randy Newman's music fits perfectly of course and I'm hoping he can get another Academy Award nomination. His record setting streak of nominations without winning (16) might have been broken now after Monsters Inc., but that's no reason to stop his Academy Award nominations. But his music seriously works very well for creating the atmospheres and the moods needed for the races and the story. The other amazing influence on the atmospheres and moods is the directing and the camera work. I've seen plenty of horse racing shots before and never been that impressed. Yeah, yeah� Action movie chase scene without the explosions... But this was quite different. Not only did they focus on things besides the races (such as all the fun reactions afterwards and such) to clear up the monotony but they also just managed to make them all quite exciting. Half the time the camera just seems to be hanging in mid air as it flies around the horses and jockies (and it probably is) getting you as close to the action as you ever will be.
I've already mentioned how much I love this movie. It is quite long and slow and very emotional. It's touching and uplifting but also sad in its own way. There are plenty of more mindless fun movies out there now and if that's what you want then this isn't a very good choice for you. But Seabiscuit is also one of the best films out there this year and something I think everybody should experience and know about. The effect Seabiscuit had on our country as a horse is amazing and hopefully this film will allow his legacy to live on.
"It's better to break a man's leg than his heart."