In the 1930s, Jesse Owens is a young man who is the first in his family to go to college. Going to Ohio State to train under its track and field coach, Larry Snyder, the young African American athlete quickly impresses with his tremendous potential that suggests Olympic material. However, as Owens struggles both with the obligations of his life and the virulent racism against him, the question of whether America would compete at all at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany is being debated vigorously. When the American envoy finds a compromise persuasive with the Third Reich to avert a boycott, Owens has his own moral struggle about going. Upon resolving that issue, Owens and his coach travel to Berlin to participate in a competition that would mark Owens as the greatest of America's Olympians even as the German film director, Leni Riefenstahl, locks horns with her country's Propaganda Minister, Josef Goebbels, to film the politically embarrassing fact for posterity. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Maybe not as prominently remembered as he once was, Jesse Owens, was one of those men in history who was able to overcome the many barriers in his life to exemplify greatness. Not only as an athlete, but as a human being.
"RACE" is the story of Jesse Owens(Stephan James) from 1933 through 1936. James Cleveland Owens was born in Alabama and at age 9 moved with his family to Cleveland, Ohio. It was in Cleveland where one of his teachers, unable to understand his thick southern accent, thought he was saying his name was Jesse when in fact he had been saying JC. This mistake led to JC being known as Jesse for the rest of his life.
A prominent high school track athlete, Jesse entered The Ohio State University in 1933 and began his NCAA track career under the tutelage of legendary track coach Larry Snyder(Jason Sudeikis). Snyder recognized greatness in Jesse the first time he watched him run and let Jesse know that he would be able to compete and win in the 1936 Olympic Games.
The movie moves from Jesse's life and troubles to Nazi Germany and back again. The story of The Amateur Athletic Union(AAU) and the American Olympic Committee(AOC), struggling with the decision to attend or boycott the games, runs parallel to Jesse's trials, tribulations and his ultimate success.
When the AAU and AOC make the decision to attend the games, the NAACP asks Jesse to refuse to enter. Due to the atrocities being committed against the Jewish population in Germany and the open hatred the Nazis expressed toward other races as well, the NAACP felt Jesse's refusal to attend the games would make a strong statement. The decision to attend the games by Owens turned out to be a much more powerful statement than could ever have been imagined. As the scene unfolded and the representative of the NAACP told Jesse what a strong statement his boycott would make, I was hoping the writer's would have had Jesse respond by saying, "It will be much more meaningful for me to attend the games and come home with the Gold" or something along that line.
Jesse Owens, to me, has always been one of the larger than life individuals that only come along every so often. The film not only celebrates Jesse Owens' accomplishments, it also emphasizes the wrongs to which people of color had to endure in the United States. Even at a dinner held in Mr. Owens' honor, Jesse and his wife were asked to enter the hotel through the service entrance. The filmmaker's parallel stories of Jesse and Nazi Germany, as they prepare for the games, brings to the forefront the hypocrisy of our American Ideals and what was really happening to many of our citizens. "RACE" is a title that fits well because it not only speaks to Jesse's prominence on the track, but to the relationship between the citizens of this planet.
The story is a worthwhile one. Historical figures like Jesse Owens need to be kept in our memory. However, as great as Jesse Owens was, this was not a great film. At 134 minutes, I felt it was a tad too long. I also felt it dragged somewhat at various times. Although the parallel story of what was happening in Europe at this time in our history is important, I feel to much time was spent on that story and not enough on Mr. Owens.
I recommend seeing this film although I feel the matinée price would be the best option.
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