By Bill Dudley

Jesse Owens was one of the most prolific American athletes in history.   Why it took 80 years to make a film about him is beyond me, but “Race” is a first class effort from director Stephen Hopkins.

A definite shifting of gears for him, as he is primarily known for the “Nightmare On Elm Street” franchise. John Boyega (“Star Wars”) was pegged to play Jesse, but dropped out and was replaced by 22 year old Canadian actor Stephan James. You saw him play John Lewis in “Selma” last year.

Jesse Owens was a high school and college track star that qualified for the 1936 Olympic Games. A dynamic highlight of “Race” is that parts of it actually were filmed at the same stadium in Berlin where the games were held. Needless to say, it is very eerily to see the podium where Adolph Hitler once stood to scream his hate and bigotry.

The NAACP had encouraged Owens not to attend because of the emerging white supremacy theme of what is now known as “Hitler’s Olympics.”

Upon telling his coach Larry Snyder, (SNL’s Jason Sedeikis) he didn’t want to go because “German’s aren’t fond of colored folks.” The coaches response, paraphrasing, “they are not fond of them here in Ohio either, so go for it.” James and Sedeikis are backed with strong performances by Jeremy Irons and William Hurt.

David Kross (“The Reader”) plays a German athlete Carl “Luz” Long who is not only embarrassed by his country’s image and leader, but also very impressed with Owens achievements, and wants to see more, even though Jesse is his competition.

“Race” is a true and gripping story, that should have been told long ago, and already one of the very best films of 2016.

 

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