In the 1930s, Jesse Owens is a young man who is the first in his family to go to college. Going to Ohio State to train under its track and field coach, Larry Snyder, the young African American athlete quickly impresses with his tremendous potential that suggests Olympic material. However, as Owens struggles both with the obligations of his life and the virulent racism against him, the question of whether America would compete at all at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany is being debated vigorously. When the American envoy finds a compromise persuasive with the Third Reich to avert a boycott, Owens has his own moral struggle about going. Upon resolving that issue, Owens and his coach travel to Berlin to participate in a competition that would mark Owens as the greatest of America's Olympians even as the German film director, Leni Riefenstahl, locks horns with her country's Propaganda Minister, Josef Goebbels, to film the politically embarrassing fact for posterity.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
The Jesse Owens Award is USA Track and Field's highest accolade for the year's best track and field athlete. See more »
After Owens wins a gold medal in the 100 Meters, he is told that Chancellor Hitler would not be able to meet him. In 1936, Hitler was no longer called Chancellor. When President Paul von Hindenburg died in August 1934, Hitler consolidated the titles of President and Chancellor into Fuhrer. See more »
The Jesse Owens story is extraordinary. It deserved a film for sure. But it deserved to be told with care. I have no doubt there was a ton of passion from everyone involved with the making of 'Race' but I also think there was just too much information for the filmmakers to give Owens the proper big screen adaptation. At times the film is special as Stephan James gives a really good performance as Owens, but other times I felt myself wondering why I was watching a film focusing on a handful of other characters when this was supposed to be a legit Jesse Owens biopic.
James' performance is probably the standout here but the entire cast rounds out the film well. Jeremy Irons, Carice van Houten, William Hurt, and even Jason Sudeikis bring plenty of credibility to one of the most important stories in Olympic history as Jesse Owens attempted to overshadow Hitler's regime by breaking records in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Although predictable and cliché at times, I found myself enjoying the relationship between Owens and his coach/trainer played by Sudeikis. I wasn't however that found of them including so much focus on the other aspects of the Berlin Olympics (though still interesting material).
I understand these Olympics had many moving vehicles that were important to the overall history of the event, but I just ended up wishing Jesse Owens got more of a focus. With that said, the times when he got his time to shine, the film was at its best. The last act of the film in Berlin felt very cinematic. The games, beginning with one long shot, felt like something made for an IMAX screen. The CGI for the Olympic Stadium also looked surprisingly well for a lower budget film (apparently 5 million). Overall, I don't think this film is as fascinating as the story it's based on is, but there's still redeemable qualities to make it a winning sports drama in my book.
+James' lead performance
-Covered too much for its own good
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