Race is based on the true story of Jesse Owens and his struggle against all the odds of poverty, racism, and unfavorable chance happenings that made him a national hero at 1936 Olympics at Germany. Stephan James fits the bill as a talented athlete with high hopes of winning the gold and coach Snyder, played by Jason Sudeikis, spotted the talent early on and nurtured it to fulfill the big dreams of Owens. So, this is a typical Sports drama template, and what makes it different is the way director Stephan Hopkins placed wide array of themes and subplots in this slow moving story, which stays close to the history.
Owens life took a dramatic twist when the USA decided to boycott the Olympics to make a motion against the Nazi policies and this was seconded by his community. This piece was perfectly strewed to bring out the acting prowess of James, who through his subdued performance puts up a natural charm on an adorable national figure, much seen in documentaries. Few people loved his struggle and few were his opponents as to accept him as the one who can make a big difference to the track and field events. All these bring the best out of the actor.
The director could have ventured beyond the realms of a biopic to add some pace to the narrative. There were defining moments, long speeches, grand music all worked in tandem with the fearsome scenes surfacing racism. However, all these don’t push Race beyond the ordinary. Owens dreamt of winning the gold but the cast and crew, with their mettle, couldn’t convert this film into gold.
Rather than digging deep into every event that transformed the life and career of Owens, the writers and the director included more pieces from the history to make the film a comprehensive guide on the athlete. You know how the events unfold and how the film ends, but stay up for this history lesson. So, all the next-gen kids who want to know more about this hero can venture out to watch Race, which catapulted the acting skills of James to a different level.
Race may not be a great Sports biopic, but the story is packed with good potions of drama, emotion and struggle to give it a leap on the race track. Above all, the endearing central character makes it watchable till he reaches the finish line.