Director: Stephen Hopkins
Writers: Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse
Stars: Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Eli Goree
“RACE” is the story of Jesse Owens played by Stephan James at focuses on Owens life between 1933 and 1936. Jesse Owens real name is James Cleveland Owens and it is explained in the movie that he was born in Alabama and at age 9 moved with his family to Cleveland, Ohio.
It was one of his teachers in Cleveland who was unable to understand his thick southern accent and thought he was saying his name was Jesse when in fact he had been saying JC. This mistake led to JC being known as Jesse for the rest of his life.
Jesse enters The Ohio State University in 1933 and began his athletic career under the wing of legendary track coach Larry Snyder played by Jason Sudeikis. He recognised greatness in Jesse the first time he watched him run and let Jesse know that he would be able to compete and win in the 1936 Olympics.
There is great screen chemistry between James and Sudeikis and you see their characters relationships develop as the story rolls forward. “I didn’t know you had a daughter?” – Snyder. “You didn’t ask” – Owens.
‘Race” not only celebrates Jesse Owens’ accomplishments, it also emphasises the wrongs to which black people had to deal with in the United States at this time. Even at a dinner held in Jesse Owens’ honor, Jesse and his wife were asked to enter the hotel through the service entrance.
Stephen James did a fantastic job playing Jesse Owens. He gave a lot a heart to it, which was important and historical figures like Jesse Owens need to be kept in our memory and I think Stephen James did a fantastic job keeping his spirit alive.
Jason Sudeikis who plays Jesse’s Coach, Larry Snyder. The well known funny man (We’re the Millers & Horrible Bosses) takes the position in a dramatic supporting role, and it was a decent turn to see him do something a little different from comedy.
Jeremy Irons plays Avery Brundage of the U.S Olympic committee. Race mostly focus on the life of Owens up to the 1936 games, but also has a great side story about America dealing with the Nazi Regime with the Olympics being held in their hometown. The story of The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and the American Olympic Committee (AOC) struggles with the decision to attend or boycott the games is mostly seen through Brundage’s perspective and Irons is first class in all his scenes in this subplot.
William Hurt is great in the short screen time he’s in, and I appreciate the makers did not succumb to have him in the movie more.
Stephen Hopkins (Director) flits back and forth between the story of Jesse and Avery Brundage’s trials and tribulations in Nazi Germany, as Jesse prepares for the games and at the same time brings to the forefront the hypocrisy of the American Ideals about a black man hardly welcomed in his own country getting the chance to run in the greatest competition of all time, in another country that does not accept him as well, and he does it and helps change the face of the world forever. Hopkins balance between the Athlete, the Politics and Prejudices is perfect and is normally a style filmmakers use in their final climatic third.
I was quite impressed with the CGI used to built the 1930s in this movie. It reminded me of that same era and quality that was used in “Captain America: The First Avenger” The costumes and sets look the part, and the stadium scenes are put together convincingly.
Credit has to go to Peter Levy (Cinematography) for the authentic look and the flow of the visuals particularly in the Olympic Stadium, visually “Race” is a big movie and the visual effects help make it look even better.
Jesse Owens, was one of those men in history who was able to overcome the many barriers in his life, not only as an athlete, but as a human being. Overall, Race impressed me. It has that emotional pull that will put a smile on your face.