Racism. Nazism. Athleticism. Olympians and bravery. The film “Race” based on the life of Gold Medal winning, American hero, Jessie Owens was everything I wanted to experience when I walked in the theater. This movie might not set box office records for dollars earned in February but Focus Features has delivered an emotionally moving film that highlights the American “can do” spirit of achieving the improbable. The success of this film rests on the performances director Stephen Hopkins was able to get from the cast. The story I knew and because of that I wanted actors who could transport me into this time of world history. Mission accomplished.
Jason Sudeikis was the main reason I saw this film. I was curious if he would have the range to deliver a performance worthy of the important themes in the movie. He did in my opinion. He plays the coach to Jessie Owens at Ohio State University. The scene where he and Stephan James (Jessie Owens) are arguing about the importance of Jessie going to the olympics was raw, truthful and powerful. When he yells at Jessie Owens that he doesn’t care about race politics he only cares about Jessie winning gold medals and he’s immediately cut off by Jessie yelling he’s not black so of course it’s not important to him… the theater fell silent. This film had many valuable ideas of race politics, friendships and respect. Bring some kleenex too. There’s emotional moments strewn throughout.
The real prize of this film was Shanice Banton who plays Jessie’s true love. I fell in love with her character so quickly that it made sense to see how much Jessie loved her. Her character was endearing, charming and genuine. Along with her, Jeremy Irons and William Hurt were equally entertaining. They provided the political challenges present with the olympic committee and the worlds response to Nazi Germany hosting the 1936 Olympics. The back and forth debate scene regarding America’s potential stance in the games was fascinating. The pro’s and con’s being discussed on each side with equally matched passion took this film to the next level. It went from being a film about race in America to human rights on a global scale.
“Race” is in theaters now! I give this film all the gold medals Jessie Owens actually won in real life. It’s not a dynamic oscar award winning film but it delivers on capturing the spirit of the time in our history. The characters are all well acted, the story is told in a way that allows the audience to feel and think and who doesn’t like seeing the Nazi’s lose? Most of the world enjoys watching Hitler defeated so there’s something for most everyone in this historical tale of the 1936 Olympics. There are even actual photos of Jessie Owens during the end credits sequence which were a nice final touch to a quality film.