Directed by Phil Alden Robinson
Based on the book by W.P. Kinsella
Screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson
Starring: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Amy Madigan, Burt Lancaster
After hearing voices out in his cornfield, Ray Kinsella (Costner) decides to build a baseball field. After plowing much of his crop, Ray builds the field, only to find out that it’s the first part of a long journey. Despite the appearance of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of the Black Sox, Ray is still looking for answers. His search soon takes him to Boston, and former protest writer Terence Mann (Jones). With Mann at his side, Ray’s search soon comes full circle, taking him home to make peace with his past.
This movie is based on Shoeless Joe, a novel by W.P. Kinsella. The book, which was first published in 1982 soon became the basis for the screenplay written by Phil Alden Robinson (The Sum of All Fears), the same man who would also direct the film. What their combined work created is a film that often stands as the bar by which other baseball films are judged. While the story is about a baseball field, it’s also about much more. The ideas of magic, history, and love all play a part in this unique film. The story also finds a wonderful way to express how America has changed over the last 100 years. This is due to great writing, and great use of the history of baseball. The dialogue in the film might initially seem overdone, but the final product is a movie that has become a classic. The screenplay earned Phil Alden Robinson an Academy Award nomination as well.
The acting in this movie is really good. Kevin Costner (For Love of the Game) shines as Ray, a conflicted man looking for answers. Amy Madigan (Twice in a Lifetime) is a great choice as his wife, bringing her loud personality to the film and creating a nice contrast between herself and Costner. Ray Liotta (Goodfellas) is an excellent choice for Shoeless Joe, really keeping his performance dialed down to maintain the mystic quality of his character. James Earl Jones (The Sandlot) is also great, portraying an over-the-hill hippie leader looking for some peace in his life. For Burt Lancaster (From Here to Eternity), there could have been no better swan song. In his final role he gives a great performance that seems to be the perfect goodbye for a talented veteran star. The acting does a great job as a while, telling this wonderful story and keeping the mystique intact.
From the technical side of things, the movie is really great. The visuals and special effects do everything necessary to create the world where magic can happen in Iowa. The score by James Horner (Titanic), earned an Oscar nomination, and highlights the movie wonderfully. The camera work and other aspects are also nicely done. Because of the great combination of elements, the film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture.
The critics loved this movie, with Roger Ebert giving it 4 out of 4 stars. Now, twenty-five years later, the film continues to stand as one of the best baseball movies ever made. Some might even argue that it is the best of the many movies that pay homage to the great game. For fans of baseball it would be a tragedy to miss seeing this one. If you haven’t seen it in a while, dust it off and enjoy. I would also recommend this to fans of drama since it plays on the emotional beats very nicely. This is a wonderful movie and I can easily give this one 5 out of 5 stars.