Race

by | Feb 20, 2016 | 0 comments

A Slow Film that Is Too Afraid of Taking Itself Seriously

It is always hard to make a biopic, and I have always stated this every time that I review a biographical film, but I want to make sure that the audience sympathizes with the great effort of the filmmakers. However, that reason doesn’t excuse the film from being criticized negatively. And unfortunately, despite the best efforts, Race doesn’t live up to the man it is hailing: Jesse Owens.

Race is the story of the famous American Olympic runner: Jesse Owens (Stephan James). The story starts in 1933 when Owens starts out at Ohio State University. There he is recruited for the track team by the school’s coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), who thinks Owens has potential to be an Olympic winner. Parallel to this story we have the American Olympic Committee (represented by the veterans William Hurt and Jeremy Irons), that is debating whether to boycott the 1936 Berlin games due to the ruling Nazi party.

The film is as generic as they come; unfortunately it starts out with exaggerated exposition, but this soon melts away as our main cast is established. We do have a nice rat-tat that happens between an impressive Stephan James and a great Jason Sudeikis, but you can’t shake off the feeling that director Stephen Hopkins is playing his story too safe; he is too afraid to make Owens appear anything less than saint-like, and this makes the matter seem fake. It’s a shame because based on facts; Owens was an incredibly complex character with many flaws, a deeper and riskier exploration would have delivered a much more intriguing story.

And then there’s the matter of the structure of the story. The film inevitably is building up to the 1936 Olympic games; everyone seems to know it except the film itself. It takes an eternity to reach the games, but thankfully when we do, we get some enjoyable dramatic races. I especially liked how the film highlighted the friendship between the German runner Carl Long (David Kross) and Owens, it allowed for the audience to see that not all Germans were evil, as well as not all Americans were good.

The best thing going for this film however is Sudeikis. He transitions from his common goofy and comedic self into an incredibly deep and motivating character (this is his first dramatic film). And I don’t want to discard Stephan James, who takes on a very difficult character and brings him to life notably (despite the directorial timidity).

In the end the film is a bit too scared of its subject. It does touch upon aspects of racism and camaraderie, but it shies away from taking itself too seriously. 

  • OVERALL MOVIE RATING 53% 53%

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What is your favorite sports movie? Let me know in the comments section.

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