One of the highlights of spring break was the film Race; I managed to catch it on the last day of release and I am glad I did. The story is based upon Jesse Owens and his participation in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, but the title obviously has a double meaning.
I knew several details of Owens’s triumph in Berlin, but I did not know much about the politics behind his participation. Jeremy Irons is excellent as the morally ambiguous Avery Brundage who persuaded the American Olympic Committee to participate in the Olympics. Brundage’s dealings with the insidious Joseph Goebbels are as cynical as possible. The film also points out that many Black leaders were concerned about Owens’s journey to Berlin and tried to persuade him not to go. The rest of the cast is very good, but I did not recognize anyone other than Irons.
The film is nicely paced and the tension increases steadily. There is considerable stress on the relationship between Owens and his coach at Ohio State University; if the film is accurate, racism among the OSU athletes was pervasive. The ending is a jolting reminder that triumph in Berlin did not make Owens acceptable to much of white society. I rarely see movies about athletes, but this one is far superior to most films in that genre. I think this one is even better than the recent 42, the excellent film about Jackie Robinson. Whether it will receive any Oscar nominations is a big question.