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What We Know So Far: A dramatization of the story behind track and field sensation, Jesse Owens and his rise to fame by fighting discrimination in his home country of the United States while being its representative in the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.
The Trailer: (Official #1)
David: First off, what a great title. Simple yet incredibly powerful as it takes two meanings of the word and combines to define a single man. The issue is, as I’ve often pointed out, that bio-pics are never quite as true as the real story, and while this trailer looks to have a lot going for it, and it’s a story that truly should never be forgotten, it no doubt paints a broad picture. What’s more, it’s one of two(!) Jesse Owens movies coming out next year (an untitled film starring Anthony Mackie is in pre-production), so we’ll have lots of opportunities to learn more about this great athlete. That said, I do like the casting choice and the look of the trailer does have a great style, with a wonderful sense of authenticity. Jason Sudeikis is finally getting a chance to show some dramatic range as he takes on legendary track coach Larry Snyder, though I’ll admit it’s hard to take him seriously, though I imagine that will change once the film gets going. As mentioned, I’m not a big fan of these kinds of movies, but at least it should generate some interest in learning the real story.
Dan: I actually like biopics and true stories. There is a certain weight added to the story when you know it happens. Most importantly, sometimes truth is better than fiction. When it comes to inspirational dramas, this quality also adds more emotional gravity. Hopefully, the Jesse Owens story avoids melodrama and doesn’t gloss over more controversial elements. Canadian Stephan James portrays Owens, and is surrounded by an impressive ensemble cast which includes Jeremy Irons, William Hurt, and Carice van Houten. The casting of Jason Sudeikis is the most daring. Known for his comedic roles, this is a drastic departure. We’ll have to see if he can pull it off. His coach character adds conflict to the story, but he also spurs on Owens to succeed. “You can run. You can jump. But can you win?” This quote works thematically as well. Owens fights another battle for civil rights. It’s another impossible race he thinks he can win. His inspiring story “reminds people what they’re capable of.” While Race doesn’t look like an epic Oscar winner, it looks like a solid big budget biopic worth watching.
David Says: While the latter half of the trailer takes to Germany and back and builds up the real story behind racial tensions and the dilemma Owens faces in choosing to run or not, there is a bit in the beginning that really shines. My Sneak Peek Moment comes when the young athlete is trying out for the track and field team in front of Snyder and his assistant. They start their watches and of course, Owens flies down the track, leaving the two men slack-jawed as they stare at their watches. Owens comes over and asks if he should he do it again. Snyder fumbles in awe and tells him yes. Sure it’s contrived and cliche, but it serves as a nice way to set the tone, which is that this man is going to surprise everyone he comes to know him, and while it starts with two men alone on a quiet campus, it’s going to end in a stadium with thousand watching and millions listening as he accomplishes the same thing.
Dan Says: The double entendre of the title makes up the other half of this story. The trailer sets the stage rather well. We think this is the story of a rising athlete pursuing his dreams. However, the tone shifts part way through as the larger picture is revealed. Owens goes from rising athlete, to advocate and community representative. The Olympics are held in Hitler Germany. Owens is asked to show solidarity with the persecuted Jews by boycotting the event he’s been dreaming off. Owens is under extreme pressure since he’s looked at as an example. My Sneak Peak Moment comes as the Coach butts heads with the athlete. They both want to win the race. Sudekis’ Coach yells at Owens, “I don’t care about any of that.” Owens can’t hold it in any longer, his anger boils over, “Yeah, well, you don’t have to… because you’re White!” This statement lands with impact. Will this confrontation help the coach and athlete see eye-to-eye? Will it help us – as the audience? Let’s hope this message is carefully handled and not too on-the-nose. One bit of dialogue gives me hope: “For 10 seconds you are completely free.” This tells me the movie is about the sport too, and what it affords those who live and breath it.