Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Gary Ross;
Bringing The Legend To Life; Seabiscuit versus War Admiral; Anatomy
of a Movie Moment.
RAGS to riches stories dont come much more remarkable than
that of Seabiscuit, the Depression-era racehorse who inspired
And it is tribute to director, Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Dave),
that the essence of that tale is whole-heartedly recaptured in
one of the most shamelessly enjoyable movies of the year.
Seabiscuit sets its stall out from the opening scenes, as a crowd-pleaser
intent on pushing all of the right emotional buttons on the way
to its uplifting finale.
And while it is certainly overlong and a little too corny in
places, the positives far outweigh the negatives, making this
a nostalgia trip well worth taking.
Aside from being the story of the racehorse itself, the film
also chronicles the lives of the three lost men it
helped to inspire - namely Johnny Red Pollard (Tobey
Maguire), a young jockey whose spirit had been broken; Charles
Howard (Jeff Bridges), a millionaire who has lost everything,
including his son; and Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), a cowboy whose
world is vanishing.
Their union helped to turn an impossible dream into a reality,
and served to provide a hero to a nation that was virtually on
Seabiscuit was a racehorse so small, he was frequently mistaken
for a pony, rather than a thoroughbred.
Mis-treated by past owners, he was embraced by Coopers
Tom Smith, who immediately realised his potential, and, with the
backing of Bridges entrepreneur, and Maguires promising
jockey, set about achieving the unthinkable.
By the time Seabiscuit beat War Admiral, the 1937 Triple Crown
winner, in a specially staged two-horse race at the Pimlico racetrack
in Maryland, the horse had captured the hearts of a nation, appealing
to the everyman on the street.
Yet this was only one half of the story. Just prior to the Pimlico
meeting, Red Pollard suffered a crippling injury,
breaking a leg in a riding accident, which looked to have finished
And while Pollards friend, and long-time rival, George
The Iceman Woolf, stepped in and rode the horse to
glory, Seabiscuit, himself, then suffered a career-threatening
injury, and looked to be finished.
But the amazing bond which existed between man and horse served
as an inspiration to both, and the Biscuit and Pollard returned
to race once more, providing the drama for the movies emotional,
if overblown, finale.
Much of the joy in watching the movie lies in the quality of
its performances. The cast is of genuine thoroughbred quality,
particularly as William H Macy also crops up as the larger-than-life
reporter, Tick-Tock McGlaughlin.
Maguire has yet to make a bad movie, while the established likes
of four-time Academy Award nominee, Bridges, and Academy Award
winner, Cooper, are simply a joy to be around, helping to turn
some of the less-inspired material into something of an acting
masterclass, without ever appearing too showy.
Rosss film is also beautiful to look at, despite its Depression-era
backdrop, making it very much a tale told through rose-tinted
specs, but which works all the better for it.
And while it may feel episodic to begin with, particularly during
the 50 minutes it takes to bring the protagonists together, and
manipulative at others, audiences shouldnt mind, for the
tale of Seabiscuit is one well worth saddling up for, and has
to rate among the years classiest acts.