Jesse Owens’ quest to become the greatest track-and-field athlete in history thrusts him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy.
“Race” is an authentic film about the inspiring life of Olympian Jesse Owens. The title’s double entendre is on purpose. It not only deals with the important races of the real-life Jesse Owens, who landed on the U.S. Olympic Team in track and field in 1936, but “race” is also an issue in the story, as Hitler and the Nazis discourage the participation of Jews and blacks during the games, without success — at least for the most part. Yet, ultimately, the movie is about the indomitable spirit of Owens.
The film does a good job in showing the chemistry between the various characters, including Jesse and his coach, Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis). Shanice Banton plays his wife, Ruth, and Jeremy Irons portrays the United States Olympic Representative, Avery Brundage. He brings a toughness and abrasive nature to the part.
The film covers Jesse’s practices and training at The Ohio State University and a day in which he set several records in May 1935, in Ann Arbor, Mich. It features his tumultuous times, too, such as when a newspaper photo of him with another woman almost breaks up his relationship with his fiancée Ruth, the mother of his young daughter. Ultimately, the story leads to Jesse’s crucial decision on whether or not to run in the games, with Hitler and his party’s hatred for Jews and blacks on display. Eventually, he decides the right thing to do is race in front of the Fuhrer — and he lands four gold medals and sets records along the way. When he becomes friends with a German runner, his rival, their friendship is icing on the cake.
Regrettably, “Race” contains strong language throughout the film, in addition to a sexual scene that goes beyond our family-friendly guidelines, so we cannot award the movie our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal.