Seabiscuit is a 2003 American sports film co-produced, written and directed by Gary Ross and based on the best-selling non-fiction book Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. The film is loosely based on the life and racing career of Seabiscuit, an undersized and overlooked Thoroughbred race horse, whose unexpected successes made him a hugely popular media sensation in the United States during the Great Depression. Seabiscuit was nominated for seven Academy Awards.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gary Ross|
|Screenplay by||Gary Ross|
|Based on||Seabiscuit: An American Legend|
by Laura Hillenbrand
|Narrated by||David McCullough|
|Music by||Randy Newman|
|Edited by||William Goldenberg|
|Box office||$148.3 million|
Three men, Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), Charles S. Howard (Jeff Bridges), and Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) come together as the principal jockey, owner, and trainer of the championship horse Seabiscuit, rising from troubled times to achieve fame and success through their association with the horse.
Red is the child of a Canadian family financially ruined by the Great Depression. In desperate need of money, the family leaves Red with a horse trainer. Red eventually becomes a jockey and makes extra money through illegal boxing matches that leave him blind in one eye. Howard is a clerk in a bicycle shop who gets asked by a passing motorist to repair his automobile, a technology which has recently been introduced. As a result, Howard becomes knowledgeable enough with automobiles to increase their performance and sell them as a dealer, eventually becoming the largest car dealer in California and one of the Bay Area's richest men. However, his son is killed in an automobile accident, which sends Howard into a bout of deep depression, which results in his wife (Valerie Mahaffey) leaving him.
On a trip to Mexico to obtain a divorce, he meets Marcela Zabala (Elizabeth Banks). After marrying Marcela, Howard acquires a stable of horses and has a chance encounter with skilled horse trainer and drifter Smith. Howard hires Smith to manage his stables. Smith then convinces Howard to acquire the colt "Seabiscuit", who comes from noted lineage but had been deemed "incorrigible" by past handlers.
Smith is unable to find a jockey willing to deal with Seabiscuit's temperament, but after witnessing Red Pollard brawling with other stable boys, he sees in him a similar temperament to the feisty horse and appoints him as Seabiscuit's jockey. Seabiscuit and Pollard become close, and they begin to race. After overcoming early difficulties, such as a dismissive media and Pollard's anger issues and blind eye, Seabiscuit earns considerable success and becomes an extremely popular underdog for the millions affected by the Great Depression. Inspired, Howard tries repeatedly to provoke a race with the mocking New York tycoon Samuel Riddle (Eddie Jones) and his "War Admiral", the top race horse in the country. Riddle eventually relents to a match race on his terms between War Admiral and Seabiscuit, but while the date approaches, Pollard is injured in a riding accident, fracturing his leg. When the doctor reports that he will be unable to ride again, Red suggests that Howard get an old friend, George Woolf (Gary Stevens) to be Seabiscuit's new rider.
Red teaches Woolf about Seabiscuit's handling and mannerisms. At the match race, Seabiscuit upsets the heavy favorite, War Admiral, partly because of a secret that Pollard relates to Woolf, instructing him to hold him head to head with the other horse so he gets "a good look at the Admiral". Later Seabiscuit is racing at Santa Anita when he is injured. Red helps him to recover and get fit enough to race again. The last race is again at Santa Anita, and Red rides him this time after putting a special self-made brace on his own leg to keep it stable. Woolf is on a different horse. Seabiscuit drops to last place and trails the pack, but Woolf holds back to be alongside Red and let Seabiscuit "get a good look". After a short conversation, Seabiscuit surges and wins the race.
The film was shot at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky and Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, New York. Keeneland doubled for Pimlico Race Course because Pimlico had dramatically changed physically since Seabiscuit's time. Additional filming took place in Hidden Valley, California. The film also marks a second collaboration between director Gary Ross and actors Tobey Maguire and William H. Macy, who worked together in Ross's 1998 film Pleasantville.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 77% based on 203 reviews, with an average rating of 7.1/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A life-affirming, if saccharine, epic treatment of a spirit-lifting figure in sports history". On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 72 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A on scale of A to F.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3.5 out of 4, and wrote: "The movie's races are thrilling because they must be thrilling; there's no way for the movie to miss on those, but writer-director Gary Ross and his cinematographer, John Schwartzman, get amazingly close to the action."
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- "Seabiscuit (2003)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved August 21, 2009.
- "Seabiscuit". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
- "Seabiscuit Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 15, 2019.
- "SEABISCUIT (2003) A". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
- Ebert, Roger. "Seabiscuit movie review & film summary (2003)". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "The 76th Academy Awards (2004) Nominees and Winners". Oscars.org. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved August 14, 2016.