I just saw the 2016 film, RACE, “a sports movie that once again shows the triumph of the human spirit and how everyone is equal when the gun goes off.”
Jesse Owens’ quest to become the greatest track and field athlete in history thrusts him onto the world stage of the 1936 Olympics, where he faces off against Adolf Hitler’s vision of Aryan supremacy. It’s a solid sports biopic that teaches and entertains and leaves you longing for more. The history lesson gives nuances that you definitely want to explore on your own, such as, what did Owens do after the Olympics?
The racial challenges that Jesse Owens wrestles with in the film are palpable. Jim Crow rules on the American frontier while Hitler and the Third Riech are rising in Germany. While both are sinful, it’s hard to split hairs or point fingers; the tension between the races presents the viewer with a moral dilemma: when it comes to race, is there a blacker black or a whiter white? The question is asked but not answered. Racism and antisemitism are on full display, and who’s to say which is the more sinister evil?
Sports gives the human race the opportunity to run the race of life with zest and zeal, blocking out all distractions and evil intentions in order to obtain gold. And now, in this the 21st Century, when it comes to race, it seems that the blending and the melding of interracial relationships present us an even tone instead of the juxtaposition of black vs. white, which are values, not colors.
As for the film, I enjoyed it emensily, but also agree with this film critic: “Perhaps the strongest argument against Race is that a film this important deserves more than a standard, by-the-numbers treatment. Although there’s nothing terribly wrong about the movie, there’s nothing special about the way in which it presents a remarkable 20th century chapter. The bare necessities are there, the performances are competent, and there are some strong moments but Race suffers from a lack of ambition. It’s too safe and that quality mutes its impact and limits its ability to be more than a history lesson.” (A movie review by James Berardinelli)