Race and all the images you see in this review are owned by Focus Features and TriStar Pictures
Directed by Stephen Hopkins
What with Oscars So White still being a relevant issues as the ceremony approaches, there really wasn’t a better time to release a biopic about the man who both shattered the color barrier to win four gold medals in 1936, and who succumbed to the insurmountable weight of the prejudice once her returned home. A fitting figure to highlight the discrimination that even people as successful as Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and countless other black and minority celebrities still have to face. Does this movie do justice to the story of the man while also being heartbreaking relevant to today? Let’s find out!!
The movie follows the career of Jesse Owens (Stephen James) between his acceptance to Ohio State University and his participation in the 1936 Berlin Olympics where he won four gold medals for the hundred meter, two hundred meter, four hundred meter relay, and long jump events. Of course, the story is not as simple as it may seem considering this all took place well before the Civil Rights Act was even a possibility in the United States, and that the Berlin Olympics were taking place in Nazi Germany which was already becoming a hotly contested entity on the world stage. As he struggles with his own personal demons about being a proper man and father, he must also face the realities of being a symbol for something greater than himself. Certain members of the black community want him to take a stand against the Olympics as a way to highlight the atrocities in Germany as well as those in his own home country, which could be a powerful statement but would almost certainly end his career in the process. Now we all know he did indeed end up going to the Olympics, but it was stuff like this that was in the back of his mind that he had to work through while facing down the Nazis in their own country. Does this movie manage to capture the historical magnitude of Jesse Owens’s achievements or is this yet another biopic that fails to capture what makes the person so great to instead focus on running down a checklist of his life story?