Verdict: Compelling and inspiring, though lacking in emotion.
Race was a tribute to the legendary American athlete of African descent, Jesse Owens. The movie may not be, in the true sense of the word, a biopic. It only depicted certain parts of the athlete’s life from his Olympic Gold-medal winning days. His struggles after the grand win were omitted from the fast-paced narrative. The movie did, however, give the audience an insight to the widespread racism prevalent in the 1930s. Even today, racism may not have been completely eradicated, but a sense of equal rights exists in modern society. Race throws light on the discrimination against the colored communities in the days preceding the Second World War.
The movie begins with a look into the life of Jesse Owens (Stephan James) as he attends Ohio State University. Under the coaching of Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), Owens begins training as a sprinter. A former athlete himself, Snyder pushes Owens to work harder, as he believes he has the potential to be the best. While Snyder wishes Owens to be completely committed to the field, Owens has other priorities on his mind, the primary being looking out for his girlfriend and their daughter. Realizing that this could hinder his progress, Snyder gives Owens a Legislative Page ID, which gets him $60 a month simply to train and get better. Thus begins Owen’s quest to make it to the Summer Olympic Games in Berlin. After rigorous training and overcoming a few setbacks, Owens finally makes it on the boat to Berlin. The rest is history.
But there’s more to the movie. While Owens is training for the Olympics, in New York, the US Olympic Committee is considering boycotting the games under the Nazi regime. A US delegate, Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons) is sent to Germany to assess the situation. In Berlin, Brundage is escorted to the partially-constructed stadium where the games are to be held. Around the stadium, Brundage sees several families of Jews being forced out of their houses and carried away in trucks. This is the first glimpse of Germany under Hitler’s rule. After negotiations with the German officials, it is decided that the games would go on as planned. All goes well until Jesse Owens begins to win three consecutive gold medals for the 100 meter race, broad jump and 200 meter dash. The Germans are not too pleased with the win, and Hitler leaves the stadium early, without shaking hands with the winner. While the Germans cannot stop Owens winning the gold medals, they insist that the American Jewish candidates not participate in the 400 meter relay. Reluctant at first, Brundage caves in when he is blackmailed. Owens takes the place of one of the runners and the team goes on to win the relay, giving Owens his fourth gold medal.
Throughout the movie, you get to see glimpses of the discrimination faced by Owens and his community. At Ohio State University, he and his other black friend are not allowed to use the showers until the white players have showered. Even in the public bus, there are separate seats reserved for the black community. Wherever Owens went, he and his friend would live in dorms separate from the white people. Terms such as ‘negro’ and ‘that’ were used unabashedly to insult them. The movie delivered good performances, from both James and Sudeikis, whose bromance added a fun element to the narrative. The title was used well as a double entendre, but failed to go deeper on either of the issues. Overall, Race is a good watch, and a great and long overdue tribute to the inspiring hero, Jesse Owens.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
If you are a sports movie enthusiast, Race is an ideal watch. There are several moments of anticipation, anxiety and celebration as Owens takes to the field. Sports lover or not, you cannot help but cheer for his victory.