Movie Review: Race

Race movie poster 2016

I'm familiar with who Jesse Owens is - I'd like to think that most people are - but I only had basic knowledge of his life before seeing Race. I found the movie to be very interesting, in that it was almost three movies in one: the life and sports accomplishments of Owens, the political climate in 1930s Nazi Germany, as well as prejudices here in the U.S. at that time.

Jesse Owens (Stephan James) is the first person in his family to attend college; his family lives in Ohio and he will be attending Ohio State. He leaves behind his girlfriend, Ruth (Shanice Banton) and their out-of-wedlock child, with the promise of soon marrying her once he saves enough money and applies for a marriage license. When he arrives at OSU, he meets the track and field coach, Lawrence Snyder (Jason Sudeikis, in his first dramatic film role), who wants him on the team. Soon, Owens is preparing to try out and qualify for the Olympics, but he must struggle with if he wants to attend or not, since it's being held in Berlin and they aren't friendly towards African-Americans there.

While this is going on, Olympic spokesperson Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons) is considering if America even wants to participate in the Olympics this year; he goes to Germany and doesn't like what he sees (Jews being rounded up in the streets, etc.) and tells the Germans that they have to clean up their act, otherwise America may not send its athletes to the games that year, which definitely would send a message to the world.

I expected this movie to be more about Owens and his life, as well as the prejudices he experienced in 1930s America, but I was fascinated by the Germany angle and historical portion of it too. I'm a big fan of sports movies - I suppose you could say all sports movies are historical movies, too, if they're about real-life events that occurred - but this movie threw some politics into the mix too, and did it very well. Stephan James, a relative unknown, was great as Owens, also, and although I'm used to seeing Sudeikis in comedic roles, he was good here too, as was Irons.

Yes, see this movie. The runtime says 134 minutes, but that must be with the credits, because it was more like a 2 hours (120 minute) runtime. There are a few slow parts throughout, but in general the film held my attention, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in sports movies, historical movies, or who like a good story. Make sure to stay all the way until the end, too, because the movie talks about the real Owens and his family, and the accomplishments that he went on to receive throughout his life (he passed away in 1980).

Race is in theaters today, February 19th, and is rated PG-13 with a runtime of 134 minutes. 4.5 stars out of 5.

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