Race is a graphic retelling of the life and times of Jesse Owens (Stephan James), the famed athlete who burst into the Berlin Olympics and took Adolf Hitler’s vision of an Aryan World heads on. His condition back home was not all that different where the African Americans were already fighting a war for their existence and he was for more than once caught up in the middle of the cross fire. He is supported by his coach Larry Snyder (a sensational Jason Sudeikis) who not only guides him but also nurtures him like a parent would. With his support and a point to prove, Owens grabs four gold medals in the Olympics which not only brings him to the attention of the world but also helps him deal some serious blows on the face of tyranny.
The film concentrates on the formative years of the man and then shift focus to the Olympics. It covers the life and times of Owens from his admission to the Ohio University to him winning the four gold medals. Apart from his exploits on field, the film makes it a point to show us a glimpse of his personal life, his problems as a colored individual and also his bonding with Snyder. It shows us the strength that he has in his heart and how he can be bull-headed to get, what he believes is right. Apart from Owens, the film also pays enough attention to the character of Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons), a man who collaborated with the Nazi but also had his heart in the right place occasionally. He was an important member of the Olympic committee and is the central character of the subplot involving the business between the Nazi and America.
The film has a breezy screenplay. Not only are the visuals great to look at, they are extremely authentic. The film has a constant feel of the 30s and the visuals never drop their guards even for a second. The seamless mixture of the visuals, story and performances makes this film what it is. Calling it a classic will be stretching it too far but Race is surely right up there in terms of entertainment and artistic satisfaction. I loved the cinematography of the film. There were moments of astute beauty. The CGI worked in tandem with the cinematography and helped create a perfectly believable world. I have been told many times that the best CGI are the ones that are invisible. If that is to be the case, then Race scores huge in terms of CGI. The set design and the props are also the ones that deserve a special mention and something that I really enjoyed. Trust me on this! This film is an eye-full. I just wished we had a black and white version of this film.
Coming to the performances, Stephan James is great. He looks nothing like Jesse but boy! he takes to the character. He makes his own interpretation of the man and his interpretation is totally believable. Be it the physical rendering or the emotional outputs that he throws out, the man really slips into the boots of Owens. Jason Sudeikis is immensely likeable. I loved the man in his previous films and here he just metamorphs to the next level. He is not only great to look at but also has the ability to hold on to your attention and make you take notice of what he has to offer. He totally nails the character. Jeremy Irons is always bankable and here too he is no different. He essays a complicated character with élan.
The film is limited only by its content. One has to agree that there is just as much as could be done with a true story and it’s by no means a reflection on the makers. They did make a good film but the content has its limitation. Apart from that the fact that we have seen numerous films of similar type only brings down its novelty and the oomph factor. However the film does up the shock value by showing some serious scene even after it has made a hero out of Jesse. These scene will surely catch your imagination. Overall race is a crowd pleaser and a worthy salute to Jesse Owens. It works to its strength and doesn’t drop its guard till the end. A faithfully executed piece of entertainment which is an interesting watch at any juncture.
Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)