Winner Takes All
Stars: Stephen James, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, Carice van Houten, Amanda Crew, Barnaby Metschurat, Glynn Thurman, Shanice Banton, and William Hurt
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Scriptwriters: Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse
Composer: Rachel Portman
Cinematography: Peter Levy
Forecast Films/Focus Features
Rating: PG 13 for themed material
Running Length: 134 Minutes
Jesse Owens was an Olympic runner/high jum
per who broke records in the 1936 Olympics held in Germany. Adolph Hitler and his Aryan Race were the hosts. Jesse Owens (played by Stephan James) was a black man and black people were thought to be inferior and this went into sports, also. The title of this film, “Race,“ has two meanings. When a black man represented America in the Olympic Games, despite all odds (and there were many), this was earth shattering news. Then, to have the black man win four gold medals at those games, well, the mind set of that time is reflected in the acting of Barnaby Metschurat as Joseph Goebbels. In this film, he doesn't speak to 90% of the population, only to Hitler, and then in whispers. The coldness in his eyes represents the glacial freeze that is slowly creeping over Europe and it is frightening to behold. These particular Games weren't just for athletes, they represented the power that wanted to control---everything.
We see how Jesse Owens was interested in sports from a youth on. Not having all the equipment that other people or schools had, he used what he had, even to old running shoes. Owens came to the attention of Coach Larry Snyder (played by an overly-enthusiastic Jason Sudeikis) at Ohio and from then on, they were a two-some. Snyder saw potential in Owens and drove him hard---and it worked. Along the way, though, Owens had a child by a girl (Shanice Banton), he later married. When it came time for the Games, it was apparent that Germany was hosting this event for its own advantage, and then the political intrigue came between Goebbels, Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons) of the Olympic Committee and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl (Carice von Houton) who had access to most everything at the Games and ended up producing a highly rated propaganda documentary film called “Triumph Of The Will” (1935). This was also a first, to let a filmmaker do this important German film, and also that the filmmaker was a woman.
What I could have done without are the frequent Owens will he/won't he sections about appearing at the Olympics. Each incident, the situation was settled and it moved forward toward the opening ceremonies. By this time, the audience is becoming expert in the sprint---start low, feel your ground and run like the wind. A few seconds that changes worlds. Owens may be winning medals, but in America, he still has to use a back entrance even at a party in his honor.
For sports people, the training sequences are strenuous, but you can see how each muscle counts at the final round, especially in a relay race. To hear the “Star Spangled Banner” in Germany in 1936 was a triumph, in itself. Even though the Jewish population was disappearing, it wasn't considered a threat to existence--just yet.
The acting is fine, especially Stephan James as Jesse Owens. He gives the right amount of courage, ambition and sometimes skepticism. Carice van Houten as Leni Riefenstahl shows us a woman in slacks (think Katharine Hepburn here) who works in a regime in which you can disappear at the drop of a hat. Jeremy Irons is a man whose priorities aren't always apparent, though he is a mediator with Goebbels. Jason Sudeikis as Coach Larry Snyder looks as though he is going to go into a stand-up comic routine most of the time. His body language gives him a
What happens to the main characters is at the end of the film.
Copyright 2016 Marie Asner