Traditionally at this time of year, new movie offerings tend to be a bit slim and so is the case in 2016, so far. The new movie “RACE” with its double entendre title was interesting in the previews. But you could tell it was not going to be a home run (generally saved for the 2nd half of the years).
The film introduced us to the Jesse Owens story relating to the 1936 Hitler Olympics. Also, it somewhat tells of his struggles with the African American community ferver towards boycotting the games and not supporting German oppression.
This is clearly not a slick polished movie but there are things, a number of things, to like about it. I also did not fact check the historical accuracy of some of the more important aspects of the film. We meet Jess as an 18 year with a man’s ripped body, with a serious lady friend, a daughter and a world record (not your typical teenager..especially among African Americans in the 1930’s) We don’t learn anything about that journey so as to get to know Jessie better (we just have to accept it).
He is the first in his family to go to college and comes from a clearly very poor family/neighborhood. Yet he is a polished speaker and been accepted to the state university. Yet we know nothing about his upbringing to explain reactions to “hurdles” (no joke intended) later in the movie.
Also we never learn why he has such a wonderful relationship with his Mom and his Dad barely grunts at him. Most importantly, we never learn how he becomes introduced to running, when he realized his talents, his training/success journey etc. we meet him as one of the best in the world coming out of high school…true but so rare deserves a little explanation.
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I am sports history junkie so I knew a decent amount about his journey and his Olympic achievements. The film does a decent job of balancing his struggles to compete, becoming a national celebrity (even before he goes to the Olympics), women struggles, some race troubles and interaction with his coach and teammates.
There were side stories in an attempt to support the film like that Owens (Stephan James) was coached at OSU by Coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis of SNL fame) who was a world class sprinter in his day at OSU with his own issues. Noted actors Jeremy Irons and William Hurt play US Olympic Committee administrators and differing sides of the boycott or not issue. The story also wove in the role of world renown filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl who was documenting the Olympics with Hitlers & Goebbels blessing obviously to be used as a propaganda piece. There is a respectful friendship that occurs between German’s best jumper and owners which is nice, if true. Even the huge German audience at the stadium is very anti Owens (due to race and country of origin) initially and then turns to adore him as his on field successes grow. You just wonder in that political climate could both an individual athlete as well as nearly an audience of over 100,000 spectators get a swift case of Owen-Itis in front of Hitler without field.
It was a good entertaining film and yet forgettable too.