Saturday, June 4, 2016

Race - Movie Review: A Slow Start, but Great Finish

One good thing about a movie about running, is that it gives me good motivation for the next few weeks to get outside and run.

Race starring Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, for some reason Jeremy Irons, and directed by Stephen Hopkins. The film is a biopic about the life of Jesse Owens leading up to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The movie starts with Jesse going to college and leads to his unprecedented performance at the games hosted in Germany under the Nazi regime. The film also tries to tell the story of the 1936 Olympics and the divisive nature competing in the games caused in the United States.
The trouble with Race is the film doesn’t know what story it wants to tell. If this was supposed to be a movie about the life of Jesse Owens, or a slice of his life, it should have just focused on him. If the film wanted to be about the 1936 Olympics, then it should have focused solely on the games. Each story can’t be told without the other, but the focus should have been shifted for a more coherent film. Since the movie was sold as a story about Jesse Owens, the story elements focused on the actual Olympic Games should have been shifted.

Stephan James does a great job in his portrayal of the track star. The actual competitions are exciting and tension filled. Hopkins does a good job of capturing the excitement and loneliness a runner feels before competing. Hopkins was also able to make one of the most boring events to watch, the long jump, into something excising. I just wish there was more actual racing in a movie called Race, but yes I understand the other meaning behind the title. There should have been more events leading up to the Olympics, about how Owens made it to the games, instead of how the US almost didn’t compete in them. There is also a strange storyline about Owens unfaithfulness before he was married to his wife. It tried to humanize him and show he wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t needed for this film. If the film wanted to focus more on Jessie owns as a true character, then it should have cut out the Olympic political storyline.

The politics behind the Olympics and how the US decided if we should compete in the 36 games is interesting, but should be its own movie and not displayed here. Jeremy Irons plays Avery Brundage a prominent Architect in New York and champion of amateur sports.  He wants the US to compete in the games, and thinks the competition should be the main focus. The purity of the games should be maintained and not sullied by politics. This of course was never the case and the Olympics have constantly been used as a political tool, at the expense of athletes. This story itself could be an entire movie, and would be an interesting one, but not coupled with a focus on Jesse Owens. He would have to be a part of a movie about the 36 games, but not the only part.

Race could have easily focused more on the story between Jesse and his coach played by Jason Sudeikis. Sudeikis does a good job in one of his first dramatic roles, and shows he can be more than just a comedy lead. The training montages were well done, and I believed he was a track coach. Over striding is death for the sprinters. The dynamic was explored well in the film, but there could have been more. Every time the movie went away from the two of them at the track I wanted the film to shift back to Sudeikis and James.

Race is still an overall enjoyable film to watch. If you like historical biopics or just sports movies in general then it’s worth seeing. It is disappointing in the fact that it could have been better if it focused more on a singulair aspect of the story. This should have been about Jesse Owens and his fantastic performance at the Olympics. The focus on the actual Olympics wasn’t needed for the film.

With Race now available for rental have you seen it? Do you like sports or biopic films? What is your favorite sport biopic? Comment and let me know. Like, share, subscribe and all that fun stuff. 

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