It's rather sad that one must slog through 11 months of the year before they finally see a good movie come out of Hollywood. Granted, Seabiscuit was a summer movie but it didn't come out on DVD until December thus I didn't see it until last night. What I saw was fantastic. Here is a movie starring three of the best actors of the day in a movie that's really about a horse.
We open on the history of the three men most responsible for the success of the race horse. Jeff Bridges plays the eventual owner and is shown going through all of the life lessons he learned prior to buying Seabiscuit. Tobey Maguire plays the eventual jockey, left at a race track by his down and out parents during the depression. Chris Cooper plays a cowboy who has lost the West and eventually finds himself training the great horse. We are allowed to see why this horse meant so much to each of them by showing us their history. Adding to this early part of the film (and some later moments) is a voice over from David McCullough, historian and voice of Ken Burns' documentaries. As a history fan, I especially liked this.
Then there is the horse. It really is amazing what they can do with animals on film. The horse assigned to play Seabiscuit (or perhaps several horses) is perfect. The work of the actors around the horse is spot on. The racing scenes are very well shot. Overall, this film delivers on all fronts. When we finally reach the point in which Seabiscuit starts winning and narrative catches up with history, we are ready and excited as we have invested in each character, including the horse.
Jeff Bridges does not do much different here than he did with Tucker, the 1988 film by Coppola, but it worked then and it works again now. Cooper is fantastic, though not given a huge amount to chew on. It is Maguire who shines brightest in this movie, especially near the end when both horse and rider must overcome injuries together. There are many touching moments and many exciting ones and any viewer will not be disappointed by either. I would hope Oscar voters remember this film come Oscar time, though I fear it will not as time will have pushed this achievement to the back of their minds. It is a shame because I have not seen a better film this year. I hope that I am able to in the coming months but as I said at the beginning of this review, why must I wait until the 12th month to see the best movies of a full calender year?
Regardless, this is a good move and should be watched. I look forward to repeated viewing on cable and it may end up being a purchase eventually. I was touched by the emotion, enthralled by the racing and intrigued by the personal stories. Well written, acted and shot, this should be your next rental if you have not seen it yet. And if you have, rent it again. That is all.