Upon viewing Race, I had high hopes for the film. I felt that director Stephen Hopkins had himself a narrative that came gift wrapped. A story about the life of American hero Jesse Owens and his accomplishments at the 1937 Olympics. Overcoming both prejudice and hate.
I found myself surprisingly disappointed with Race and left the theater feeling underwhelmed, wishing for something more fulfilling. It was quite obvious that unskilled filmmakers and scriptwriters were behind this picture.
Race centers around track and field sensation Jesse Owens played by Stephan James. It follows Owens on his college career of running track and breaking world records in the 100 yard dash. All leading up to his participation in the 1937 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany. Which is currently under Nazi rule. Owens must overcome the prejudice of both the people in the United States, and the Nazis hate at the Olympics to win gold at the games.
Race suffers from a dull script that never seems to be focused, the editing job of a madman, and an overall screenplay that seems all too content with never staying on topic. Some scenes cut to the exact same shot with the camera hardly moving, signifying absolutely nothing. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like the scene should have ended. Jesse will be talking with his coach and suddenly in the middle of conversation cut to Berlin Germany preparing for the Olympics.
Race also attempts to develop some side stories including a German director wanting to film the Olympics, and a committee of men deciding whether the United States will partake in the games. I found myself caring less about these scenes and counting down the minutes till we returned to Jesse Owen`s story. The dialogue is especially bland for these scenes and are so carelessly put together. When it all comes together in the end, they fail to impress.
In one scene Jesse`s girlfriend played by Shanice Banton is furiously upset with him, forcing him to leave her place of work ashamed and signifying the end of the relationship. Yet, not even two minutes later into the film he convinces her to marry him. It takes him little to no effort to win her heart back. There are far too many unmotivated scenes throughout the film that hinder the story.
What saves Race from imminent doom is the acting talents of the lead roles and general subject matter of the film. Stephan James and Jason Sudeikis are fun to watch all throughout the film. The characters are likeable and down to earth and the audience can still connect with them. You want to see Jesse succeed in winning the gold at the Olympics and you want to see whatever other little conflict that’s been developed to be resolved. No matter how convoluted and unfocused the plot gets to be.
I truly admired how close the film related to its original source material. Not much of the story was left up to fiction as many of the major events actually took place. Which is another reason that a viewer like myself still became wrapped up in its characters and events.
Race is not a necessary film to see by any means, and the legendary Jesse Owens deserves a much better film to do him justice. If only the quality of the filmmaking matched up with how historically accurate and well-acted it was. Maybe then more viewers could leave the theater feeling content with a cohesive film.