‘Secretariat’: A Classic Underdog Triumph

"Secretariat" directed by Randall Wallace ("We Were Soldiers") is an exhilarating and uplifting film. The film is based on the inspiring story of the underdog turned Triple Crown Champion racehorse of the same name. Based on William Nack’s book "Secretariat: The Making of a Champion," "Secretariat" is a dramatic, yet heartwarming picture that captures the hearts of viewers.

The script by Mike Rich ("The Rookie") created complex and deep roles for the actors. Diane Lane, who is most prominently known for her sappy, romantic roles, brings a strong character to the big screen with her role as Penny Chenery -delivering a superb performance. Chenery is the typical housewife and mother of four who refuses to accept that her father’s horse-breeding stable is failing, and, despite the wishes of her husband and brother, sets her mind on taking the business over herself, disregarding her complete lack of knowledge regarding horses.

Chenery quickly morphs into the superwoman of the corrupt, male dominated world of horse races. With the flip of a coin, she becomes the owner of Secretariat, a newborn colt who is a born racehorse. Chenery continued to be determined as she snatched Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich, "Burn After Reading"), a renowned trainer nearing retirement.

Malkovich successfully illustrates the comedic, headstrong character of Lucien, and his clashing with Chenery, and Laurin created an intriguing chemistry throughout the film.

The real action began after the first hour of the film, when the outstanding racing scenes kicked in. Filming in dangerously close proximity, and through the use of cameras attached to the horse, the race scenes are intensely thrilling. The scenes put the audience in the seat of the jockey, making it an almost religious experience with the combination of "Oh Happy Day" sounding in the background, suggesting Secretariat is some sort of miracle. The gospel appeal of the race scenes make Secretariat’s victories only that much sweeter.

As Secretariat and Chenery became the icons of horse racing, Chenery’s family life slowly dissolves, creating the central conflict of the movie. Chenery’s husband Jack Tweedy (Dylan Walsh, "The Stepfather") is clearly not thrilled to have taken on the role of ‘Mr. Mom’ as his wife dominates the horse race business, and mildly expresses his frustration.

The final 30 minutes of the film consists of the anticipated Triple Crown race, which surprisingly was far from rushed. The finale is the most majestic part of the film as Secretariat crosses the finish line in the slowest of motions in combination with "I’ll Take You There" by the Staples Singers. An appropriate ending for a film with an uplifting plot, and exceptional performances by talented actors.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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