They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I guess this motto is the reason Hollywood continues to make historical figure movies at least once a year. This weekend, the life of track legend Jesse Owens comes to the silver screen in the movie entitled Race. While the Oscars may eat up these kinds of movies, they sometimes get overcredited with being the best movie over the year. So once more I dive into my local theater to review the latest in cinematic productions. Let’s get to it then.
When it comes to historical biographies such as Race, you look for a portrayal that elicits pride, passion, and other emotions that will inspire the audience. And once more Hollywood manages to bring all of that to bear with cinematic magic. Race is packed with well edited sequences that show the struggles Owens faced in his day as he trained to become the champion. The racial fervor of the times is brought in full force with extras intensely screaming with furious scowls painting their faces. Captains and financers of the Nazi regime are even more chilling, as they radiated the menacing energy we’ve come to know from history, adding suspense to the film. The emotion it brings will truly unnerve some people, and I’m sure some group will get offended by the portrayal of some Race in this movie (despite the inspirational theme in this movie).
But the negativity is only one side of the coin, and Race does an even better job with their more lighthearted moments. The training sessions are just the ice breaker to preaching the morals of hard work and determination. Once at the meets, things get turned up a notch with blaring music and beautiful shots raise your emotions to new heights. With each shot of the gun, each stride across the track, I felt roped into Owens world. And the finale… well lets just say the morals they preach would be grand for today’s society could stand to learn from. Of course being based on actual events, this suspense can be missing if you know Owens accomplishments already, which is unfortunate in these types of movies.
Yet even the best editor can only do so much and we switch our focus to the actors now. Stephan James gets two thumbs up from this reviewer for his portrayal of Owens. He was able to capture the work ethic of Jesse, delivering powerful lines to motivate the audience, but not to cross the line into cheesiness and overdramatic presentation. In addition he adds a nice comedic edge that balances his character out into a new light. Jason Sudeikis also did his role justice playing Larry Snyder, the coach of our Olympian. Rarely do you see Sudeikis in a serious role, so it was refreshing to see him tackle this part. He has emotional fervor, bringing fire to the screen as he defends his morals and encourages his athletes to give it his all. Sure the screaming rants were a little over done, but all in all it worked for me. However, don’t think his comedy has been drained away, Sudeikis still brings his comedic timing to the picnic and reigned his ridiculousness in for this film. These two have great chemistry and together really sold the story.
Yet with all the good I’ve mentioned, we should probably talk about some of the limitations to this film. The first is of course the predictability of this story. YES I know when it comes to historical biographies you have only so much to work with, but it still slightly takes away from the suspense and mystery. A second limitation was that it tried to cover more than it had time for. This title has doubled meaning and I felt it didn’t go in depth enough for either topic especially in terms of his integration with the teammates. Yes we did see some of this near the end, and it was probably more important to portray the pressure placed on his shoulders, but still I would have liked to see a little more. As such there were a few moments that could have been left out of the movie to either make the run time shorter or make room for some other plot lines. Outside of that though, it is quite a fun and entertaining film.
Overall, Race does it job to illustrate the past and inspire you to accomplish your dreams. The phenomenal editing and great casting truly preach the morals and lessons that history has to offer us. Yet it is a simplistic movie that lacks a lot of special effects are uniqueness to require a theater visit. As for the accuracy of this film, I can’t say as I need to revisit his biography at some point. Historical fanatics are going to enjoy this the most, but those who appreciate good acting should check this one out. My one hope is that this movie doesn’t add further fuel to the fire and cause another fight on social media or some other avenue.
My scores for this film are:
Movie Overall: 7.0