The story of American athletic star Jesse Owens who fought against the racism and segregation of America during the 1930’s to become the greatest athlete of his generation.
One of the great things about this film, and it’s a good film to go watch even if you don’t know about Mr. Owens, but the great thing here is that it points out a very uncomfortable line of similarity. It’s going to be feel like I’m standing on a soapbox chanting out a we’re all one speech, but it seems that a lot of us on this planet haven’t gotten there yet. This film points out the similarities between America in the 1930’s and Nazi Germany in the 1930’s. Before Germany invaded Poland and Britain declared war on them, they had been rounding up Jews and persons that they called undesirables. Under laws for the preservation’s of the German race they started what we know called the holocaust, and the world did nothing, our countries acted outraged but did nothing. America in the 1930’s, while they didn’t go as far as the Nazi’s, treated the African-American and other minorities as second class citizens. If your eyes are opened while watching this film then you’re going to see it’s all a matter of degrees of separation.
Jesse Owens is a young man, who works hard, and has managed to get into a college. He’s a fast runner and a great broad jumper. It’s not long before his coach in college recognises that he’s got the talent and dedication to be one of the best in the world. Jesse leaves behind his struggling family, his Girlfriend, and infant Daughter, to make life better. While he continues to go through college, in another part of America, the Olympic Committee are discussing if they should attend the next games in Germany. In Germany the propaganda machine is working hard to show the world that the Nazi Regime is a place that the whole world should strive to follow.
Jesse is played by Stephan James and plays this American Hero as a man who is aware of the situation of his race in America but will continue to work constantly to make the lives of his family and his own life better. It’s a great performance because you have to believe in him 100% for this film to work. Playing his Coach is Jason Sudeikis, and it’s nice to see Jason playing a serious role that proves he can act straight as well as cracking us up in comedy. The rest of the cast does an amazing job and there is very little to complain about apart from Jeremy Irons accent. For some strange reason every time Mister Irons does an American accent I keep thinking about Foghorn Leghorn. I don’t know what it is but he has one American accent that he uses in each film.
The story of the film pings back and forth between Jesse and the politics of the Olympics. Production wise the level of detail of the 1930’s and different discriminations in America and Germany are expertly handled.
This film is could have an obvious spin-off and probably should as there seems to be another great story. In the games one German athlete broke the orders of the regime and shook the hand of Jesse Own. Carl Luz Long was the closest competition that Owen had. The outcome of this simple gesture of goodwill and sportsmanship is shown at the end of the film and you should stick around to read what happened to the characters after the games. Jesse became an American Hero with records that lasted long after he retired.
Race takes you through the life of an American Great, a man who transcended what society thought at that time, he used his talent to show the best of what America can be. I have to admit that I got a little tear in my eye during the film, it’s very emotional, which a lot of these biopics fail to achieve. That alone is worth the cost of admission, but the story of hope over discrimination and the challenging of the ideals of the time should inspire the most skeptic of us out there.
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Writers: Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse
Stars: Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Eli Goree