Review: ‘Race’ is a compelling glance at Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympic Games

2016-02-26-Race-movie-posterBy MARK VIOLA

Any conversation about the greatest Olympic athletes this country has produced must include Jesse Owens, whose success at the 1936 games in Berlin set records that would take decades to topple. To be honest though, other than his gold medals, I knew very little about the man himself, so I was intrigued by the new movie, “Race,” which follows his journey to Ohio State University and then to Berlin. And while this is solid sports drama with a worthy story to tell, I left the theater with the feeling I didn’t learn much about the man himself.

That’s because while the movie does indeed focus on Owens, it is trying to tell a somewhat wider story about the controversy surrounding the country’s participation in the Olympics while they were being hosted by Nazi Germany. There are certainly parallels to be drawn between the overt racism facing Owns and other African American athletes and the treatment of minorities in Germany, which would sadly only escalate as the years went on. And the films draws on those connections to tell its story.

If you’re looking for a focused film about Owens’ life before and after the ‘36 games, you might leave disappointed. That being said, “Race” is a solid movie and while the script does fall into cliché territory on several occasions, strong performances and a compelling story easily overcome these issues for an solid experience.

“Race” is an enjoyable sports film and while Jesse Owens might not get the individual treatment some might hope for, this is a compelling look at the 1936 Olympics through the lens of Owens’ experiences in Berlin.

The film is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and language.

(This is a abbreviated version of the full review available in our printed or e-edition papers.)

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