The athletic achievements of Olympic legend Jesse Owens are nothing short of remarkable, but Race is so much more than your average sports movie or celebrity biopic. It's a very human story about social marginalization that, sadly, still resonates. 3.5 out of 5.
Even if you don't follow sports, or more specifically, Olympic track and field events, chances are you've heard of Jesse Owens. Not only was Owens a world-class athlete who brought four gold medals to the United States in 1936, but as an African-American, he did so in Germany during the reign of Adolf Hitler and his vision for the ideal world, which included Aryan supremacy.
Want Another Take? Watch Our Video Review of Race
The writers behind Race, a title with an intentional double meaning considering it centers around competition and conflicts between people with different skin colors, do an admirable job in addressing both. The film features a nuanced portrayal of a young man who always felt destined for greatness but repeatedly faced hardships and challenges for nothing more than being black. Race is memorable and moving without resorting to preachiness or cookie-cutter storytelling. Not only is Stephan James a standout in the titular role, but Jason Sudeikis, best known for raunch-coms like Horrible Bosses and Hall Pass, proves he can play it serious rather effectively, too.
The film is a bit on the long-ish side and sometimes the transitions from sports back to real life are a bit choppy.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
There are references to Jesse's God-given talent and using those gifts in a way that honors the Giver. While not explicitly spiritual, Jesse's family is a tight-knit bunch that clearly has an understanding of what's important in life. Despite how little they have in the way of money or career prospects, they never seem to be shaken and wholeheartedly support Jesse as he's the first of the family to head off to college. Jesse is told his blazer looks like something that's worn to "Sunday school," and though he becomes a father at a very young age, he's committed to his daughter and her mother even before Ruth becomes his wife.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements and language
- Language/Profanity: Several uses of go--amn, plus the occasional da--, he--, as-hole. A handful of racial epithets.
- Sexuality/Nudity: No sex or nudity. Jesse and Ruth have a daughter before they're married. While in a committed dating relationship with Ruth, Jesse, a rising star, is briefly involved with another woman. We see them dance closely and flirt, but it's unclear whether they spend the night together before Jesse comes to his senses and ends things.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Some bullying about race-related issues.
Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking, sometimes to the point of drunkenness. Coach Larry is often shown chugging strong liquor. Cigarette smoking.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of feel-good sport movies with strong protagonists and plenty of conflict throughout.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Those under 13, per the rating. Otherwise, Race is the kind of inspirational movie with a message nearly everyone should see.
Race, directed by Stephen Hopkins, opened in theaters February 19, 2016; available for home viewing May 31, 2016. It runs 134 minutes and stars Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Eli Goree, Shanice Banton, Jeremy Irons, William Hurt and Jonathan Higgins. Watch the trailer for Race here.
Christa Banister is a Dallas-based freelance writer and the author of two novels she describes as "romantic comedies in novel form," Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. You can find out more about her current work in progress and the avid cook, traveler and Green Bay Packer fan at www.christabanister.com or by following her on Twitter (@ChristaBanister).
Publication date: February 17, 2016