Race 2016 | Movie Review – Film Conclusion

The Olympics Are Here!

The Olympics may be over, but the excitement around Olympics doesn’t have to end there. Here’s a movie to keep that rush going – it’s about running, Olympics and Nazi Germany.

Synopsis on Race the Movie 2016

Race is a biographical picture set in the 1930’s, the era of the Nazi regime. Black men like Jesse Owens faced insults and mockery for their skin color, even with outstanding natural running ability.

Regardless, the real life Jesse ran and long jumped into history with a total of 3 new world records. In all, during the course of his career, he carried home 4 Olympic gold medals for the United States in the 1926.

The movie begins with Jesse Owens (played by Stephan James), getting dressed for college in a house packed with siblings and family. He drives to the city, to enroll and become a professional runner, under the tutelage of track coach Larry Snyder (played by Jason Sudeikis).

When Jesse and Coach Snyder first meet – Snyder gives Jesse a dress down, doubting his natural ability and determination. Jesse’s running technique is wrong, his posture is off and so on… Jesse answers with, “Have you ever picked cotton?” recounting his hard labors as a 6 years old, picking cotton with his family.

Larry’s disdain soon wears off when he times Jesse on the track. He’s so surprised by the youth’s speed that he takes on the cookie-cutter role of a mentor, albeit clumsily (Sudeikis is from SNL, after all).

In a number of scenes, Coach Snyder shares tips with Jesse about how he ought to respond to racist verbal abuse.

NOTE: During this era, black people were forced to sit in the back of the bus, to drink out of “colored” water fountains and were harassed in public. Even whilst Jesse Owens came to represent the United States at the Olympics in ’26 – he was told to enter through the service entry.  It was not an easy time.

As Jesse gains fame for setting world records, he captures the attention of a woman who leads to conflict between him and his wife. A scandal ensues.

At a pivotal moment in the story, Jesse must decide to either abandon his dream of the Olympics, or partake in the event sponsored by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime.


How True is It?

As far as realism, the telling of Jesse Owens’ life in Race isn’t perfect. The real Jesse attributed his encouragement to run to Charles Riley, a Jr High track coach with whom he kept contact throughout his career – not Coach Snyder.

So where is Charles in the story? He’s simply not in the movie.

After watching Race, you may enjoy reading about Jesse on the web to learn of his many accomplishments and struggles. It’s impressive really, how intensely political his career became – which this movie doesn’t fully convey.


About the Actors

Stephan James delivers a good, upbeat performance. He matches the seriousness expected of a runner whose skin color matters more to white people than his abilities. But what the film does to his strong acting is disappointing: often he is off screen while the Nazi backstory takes main stage with excessive scenes.

Jason Sudeikis, as coach Larry Snyder, delivers an okayish performance, largely due to his many hilarious roles on Saturday Night Live. Frankly, we can’t see him being serious.  At times, the actor may have been fighting a giggle himself. In several dramatic scenes, we seem to catch him attempting to conceal a grin.

These subtle moments lead to an unbelievable coach – and an even more unbelievable coach in the 1930’s.

The best part of Jason’s acting in Race is when he gives Jesse a pep talk about ignoring racist taunts. He calls the white cajolers “gorillas” and tells Jesse to act as though they don’t exist (setting a fine example himself).


Directed by Stephen Hopkins

Written by Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse


Main CastRace 2016 movie poster review

Stephan James as Jesse Owens

Jason Sudeikis as Larry Snyder

Eli Goree as Dave Albritton

Shanice Banton as Ruth Solomon

Carice van Houten as Leni Riefenstahl

Jeremy Irons as Avery Brundage

William Hurt as Jeremiah Mahoney

David Kross as Carl ‘Luz’ Long

Jonathan Higgins as Dean Cromwell

Tony Curran as Lawson Robertson

Amanda Crew as Peggy

Barnaby Metschurat as Joseph Goebbels

Chantel Riley as Quincella

Film Awards

Who Will Enjoy This Movie

People who enjoy movies about sports and inspiring feats will get their money’s worth watching Race. It shows the challenges a runner in the early 1900’s faces for being black.  It’s also about Nazi Germany and the United States – history buffs may find these moments interesting to watch.


Similar Movies

42 (2013)

Spirit of the Marathon (2008)

Without Limits (1998)

White Men Can’t Jump (1992)



Overall, Race is a movie with a promise of substance, but it struggles to deliver a powerful performance due to sluggish pacing. Frequent jumps between Jesse’s story and Hitler’s rise in Europe leads to a weak understanding of the man behind the race.

If you’re not a history buff, you won’t learn much about Jesse Owens from this film. Still, it has moments where running is beautifully portrayed.

Unfortunately, Jason Sudeikis played his role as coach too safe. His low energy performance and a calm Jesse Owens played by Stephan James make the movie bronze, not the gold we expected.

Final Say: a B- shallow biographical film about Jesse Owens, Olympic runner who won 4 gold medals.


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  4. It is indeed worth watching it. You can see that the discrimination concerning the African American in the US and in Germany is about the same.

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