March 1, 2016
By Tiffany Skelnik
“Race”, directed by Stephen Hopkins, chronicles Jesse Owens’ journey to a remarkable 1936 Olympic bid in Berlin, Germany. The film stars Stephen James as Jesse Owens and Jason Sudeikis as Owens’ coach, Larry Snyder. “Race” focuses on Owens’ arrival to Ohio State University and his relationship with his coach Larry Snyder. Both actors do a phenomenal job portraying this relationship. Stephen James delivers a performance that is both touching and powerful. James’ performance shows both Owens’ struggles and his triumphs. The viewer is able to see exactly what Jesse Owens is feeling in every scene. He makes the personal struggles of Jesse Owens just as compelling as the racing scenes. James’ performances throughout the rest of the film make the race scenes and the victories extremely rewarding for the viewer. Jason Sudeikis plays off James’ performance in just the right way. It is easy to see that Snyder grows to care for Owens, as both his mentor and his friend, through Sudeikis’ portrayal. The friendship of Jesse Owens and Larry Snyder is a highlight of the film.
The film displayed some of the troubles that surrounded the Olympic games in Berlin such as the vote by the International Olympic Committee and the American Olympic Committee regarding a boycott of the 1936 Olympics by the US. This portion provides some of the most interesting and thought-provoking performances of the film with Jeremy Irons, as Avery Brundage, providing one of the best. Irons’ performance makes Brundage into a complex figure with mysterious and compelling motives. The viewer is left questioning many of his actions. Another standout performance comes from Carice van Houten as Leni Riefenstahl, the filmmaker tasked with filming the 1936 Olympics. She manages to make Riefenstahl sympathetic and complex. Her performance is powerful and amazing to watch.
The commencement of the Olympic games pushed the performances to an even higher level. Viewers are on the edge of their seats with every starting gun. This is due to the brilliant direction of Stephen Hopkins. The way that the race scenes are filmed gives the movie a tense and unpredictable atmosphere that stays with the viewer long after the scenes are through. It is this atmosphere that is carried throughout the film and makes the story compelling.
“Race” is a fantastic film that tells a great story. I cannot recommend it enough.