ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  gabriele muccino

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  140 minutes

RELEASED  -  25 july 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  universal pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  seabiscuit

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $80,000,000
seabiscuit - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from seabiscuit at

buy the dvd from seabiscuit at

a half-blind ex-prizefighter and mustang breaker team up with a millionaire and his rough-hewn, undersized horse, seabiscuit, and become part of a legend.

over fifty horses were bought and trained for the film.


picture from seabiscuit

picture from seabiscuit

picture from seabiscuit


three out of four possible stars

Beautifully filmed and graciously acted, Seabiscuit begins without the customary minutes long opening credits sequence and launches directly into the story of three vastly different men and their efforts to turn a long shot horse into a champion racer. And while the film doesn't exactly race out of the paddock, the story is a gripping one with much to offer an interested audience. It might pass by the average 18 to 24 year old male audience that most summer releases aim for, but for most viewers, this film will be a rousing story that might even bear the title of, "inspirational."

Taking the inspirational route can spell doom and disinterest from audiences who don't wish to feel the pedantic rhetoric of a schoolroom lesson, but the story and characters in Seabiscuit add up to something much more innocent than an arid piece of lecture. The emotions displayed by the characters border on and step across the line of melodrama quite frequently, but the film is not the worse for it. In fact, the film is a very good example of how intense drama can be uplifting rather than overwhelming. But that's not to say the film isn't a gripping drama. It just needs a few minutes to rev its engine before it takes off.

Part of what can make or break a film that is dependent on character is the ability of the actors. And with three very strong lead performances from Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, and Tobey Maguire, and a host of vibrant supporting actors, the film benefits from the attention paid to detail concerning those characters and the real life people upon which they were based. Since the legend of Seabiscuit and his trainer, owner, and rider is such a well known story, creating a film where much of the audience would know the outcome was a gamble for the filmmakers, since some of the suspense would be gone from the theatrical experience.

But in a rare feat, it doesn't seem to matter whether you know Seabiscuit's fate. The journey in getting there is a thoroughly engrossing experience due to the high production values of the film and the smoothly paced story. With the addition of the expert talent in front of the camera, the rather slow beginning to the film doesn't hinder the production overly much, considering it's the beginning that's slow and not the end. Which ensures those viewers who feel the film doesn't begin fast enough will be satisfied by the end that the pace is sufficient.

The transformations of the characters are one of the most interesting aspects of the story. It's not so much the physical transformations, as there are subtle changes in each of the characters regarding hairstyles and age lines, but the emotional changes through which each of the characters progresses. It's obvious that smart casting allowed the characters to find such believable chemistry with one another, but with so much backbreaking drama thrown into the mix, the actors had a lot of emotions to play with.

Even William H. Macy's zany radio personality, "Tick Tock McGlaughlin," has a "character arc" that can be appreciated, even though Macy's character is but a supporting role. The supporting character of "Marcela Howard," Jeff Bridges' wife played by Elizabeth Banks, has a slew of emotional ups and downs which allow her to engage the audiences' emotions. Seabiscuit is a film that will play well to a wide demographic, but that should also be recognized for some of the strongest performances of the year and an acute attention to detail by the crew.

Gary Ross has managed to combine the best of creativity behind the camera and in front of it in the form of cinematography, editing, score, character, and dialogue, to create a very well put together film. It rides easily to its conclusion and despite its slow beginning, seems much shorter than its two hours and twenty minutes. This masking of length should make director Gary Ross proud, since it's no easy task to make a film emotionally affecting until the ending credits. This film is a satisfying theatrical experience and the entire cast and crew should be proud of such a well made product.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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