The incredible true story of the United States’ best track and field athlete has finally come to the silver screen. It is amazing that Jesse Owens’ story has never been told in the form of a full-length, feature film before now. “Race” is the long overdue biopic of Owens’ amazing track career. The film highlights the extremity that the title’s double entendre suggests in the most powerful of ways.
Owens’ marvelous life could not possibly fit in one film. The team behind “Race” made a great decision in only showcasing the three years between Owens’ first day at Ohio State University and his arrival back to the USA after the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany. This was a good decision, because it allowed the film to focus on the most important aspects of Owens’ life and legacy. He was a young, determined father who wanted to create a better life for his family by any means necessary.
After setting numerous track records in high school, Owens decided to attend Ohio State University to compete collegiately. He was the first college-educated person in his family and felt that getting a college degree would help give his family a better life than the one they had in Cleveland.
Ohio State’s track and field coach, Larry Snyder, was one of the only coaches at the time to allow African American athletes to compete on a sports team. He recruited Owens for his team and quickly realized the level of natural talent that Owens had. Snyder helped Owens quickly rewrite the history books with an unparalleled level of success.
“Race” is a film worth seeing for many reasons. One of the great parts of the film is that the story is very serious, yet lighthearted at the same time. It is difficult for a film to be successful as both, because those two emotions do not usually mix well, but “Race” is a totally different story. The filmmakers were able to maintain a serious tone throughout the narrative and have a lighthearted feel with the quirkiness of Snyder, portrayed by Jason Sudeikis, and Owens, portrayed by Stefan James. The film is an oxymoron by having a light and heavy feel, but it works to its advantage, as it is very easy to get emotionally attached to both the characters and the story.
The acting also helped make “Race” a good film. Sudeikis, of “Saturday Night Live” fame, was perfectly cast as Snyder. Sudeikis brought his usual eccentric charm to help add comic relief to the more serious aspects of the film. He and James had a good repertoire on camera that made the story more believable.
James shined in his first leading performance. He was able to capture the positive spirit and personality of Owens perfectly.
“Race” is able to show the impact of the story it tells from the beginning until the very end. The last scene of the film epitomizes the struggle of segregation in the 1930s and the meaning of the film as a whole.
Owens was never treated like the American hero that he was because of his race. It is truly unfortunate that he never got the treatment he deserved, even though he was the greatest American track and field athlete and Olympian. The Owens family can be proud once again, because Jesse Owens has finally been honored properly with “Race.”