Race: Review

There’s something about Race which feels terribly artificial, in terms of both its visuals and storytelling. Stephen Hopkins’ biopic about Jesse Owens, a tremendously talented black athlete who won gold and embarrassed Hitler in the 1936 Olympics, makes an admirable attempt at brining the fascinating true story to the big screen. But, ultimately, the film is bogged down by its many threads which fail to come together, leaving you with the sense that this would have perhaps worked better as a mini-series.

There’s simply too much going on, to the point where Jesse Owens’ story seems to take a backseat at times. The narrative weaves between Owens and his relationship with his coach – a relationship which feels painfully forced due to the lack of chemistry between Stephen James and Jason Sudeikis – as well as the athlete’s love life; Jeremy Irons and William Hurt play supporting roles as members of the International Olympic Committee who are on opposing sides of the debate as to whether America should take part in the Berlin games; and there’s even a focus on German film-maker, Leni Reifenstahl’s filming of the Olympics.

Each individual element could be a film in itself, but after being thrown in the same mix, the result is a messy stodge. Whereas the bigger and much more interesting theme of race is touched upon often, at one point asking the question as to whether the racial prejudices in Germany and the USA were at the time too dissimilar, this is the one aspect of the film that isn’t explored enough to be of any real interest. A strange sheen of CGI cityscapes – an attempt to overcompensate for the film’s limp storytelling – certainly makes the story feel cinematic, but also takes you out of it completely. 

Whilst its intentions are good-natured, Race suffers in trying to do too much. It lacks the concise and focused type of film-making needed to tell such a complicated story and, despite some decent performances from Stephen James and Jeremy Irons, fails to take home the gold.

Image credit to http://www.impawards.com


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