Directed By: Stephen Hopkins

Starring: Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, Carice van Houten, Shanice Banton, and William Hurt

Simplicity can be elegance, especially when it comes to movie titles.  One-syllable titles are especially potent because they say everything and hardly anything at all.  Heat.  Ray.  Up.  These titles are short and sweet but convey so much.  There's no better example this weekend than the Jesse Owens biopic Race.  In the case of the period biographical picture, there's a double entendre at play in its title, and they're both very obvious.  On the one hand, there's the clear play on the fact that Jesse Owens runs races as a track athlete.  On the other hand, there's a play on the divisive racial issues that ripped the moral fabric of both America and Germany apart.  It's simple yet elegant.  Like its title, the film Race follows the same principles in delivering a rousing yet educational piece of cinema for many.

Ready to run off to college, track athlete Jesse Owens (Stephan James) has a lot to prove to himself and to the world.  Headed to Ohio State as a student-athlete, Owens gives a warm goodbye to his family only to get a less than warm welcome from his classmates.  He makes a commitment to Coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis) to put his all into success on the track regardless of the storm of bigotry swirling around him at this less progressive institution.  With fate calling him, Owens does exactly this.  He starts breaking world records and racking up wins in pursuit of the ultimate goal, representing the United States at the 1936 Olympic Games.  Taking care of his girlfriend Ruth Solomon (Shanice Banton) is just about the only thing that gets in the way of his commitment to Coach Snyder.

Elsewhere in the world, the winds of the Second Great War are starting to blow.  The Nazis are persecuting the Jewish people and wreaking havoc in Europe.  As fate would have it, the 1936 games are in Berlin.  With this in mind, the United States Olympic Committee is considering pulling out of this year's games to make a political and moral statement.  Committee president Jeremiah Mahoney is leading the charge to skip the ceremonies in Berlin.  Committee member and former athlete Avery Brundage (Jeremy Irons) feels otherwise and believes he can convince the Germans to make several concessions to get the United States committed to the games.  Brundage heads off to Berlin with the committee's vote and America's participation in Berlin hanging in the balance.

Following in the footsteps of 42 and McFarland, USA, Race is a film designed to educate moviegoers and tug at our heartstrings.  Stephen Hopkins's Olympic-themed film does just that over the course of a couple of hours.  Hopkins successfully does what a minority of athletes and spectators ever have (Beyoncé is on the list after her Super Bowl performance).  Hopkins politicized sports.  He simply delivers a rousing sports drama while elegantly tackling the social themes of the era — namely Aryan supremacy, anti-Semitism, and Jim Crow.  It's really a job well done by Hopkins at a time when less than stellar movies typically arrive at the box office.

Hopkins utilizes several cinematic devices to build on both the athletic and political themes of the film.  From a sports perspective, he utilizes sound to amplify the gladiatorial nature of the game.  You can hear it in the roar of the crowd or the gunshot that gets the races started, but sound mixing is crucial in Race.  The other way by which Hopkins focuses on the athletics at hand is by delving into the details and really emphasizing the feats being accomplished by Jesse Owens.  From a political perspective, Hopkins brings the drama.  The film's most dramatic moments revolve around racially charged conflicts.  Ultimately, they help to amplify the horrendous acts of the two looming oppressors — Germany and the United States.

The performances are quite enjoyable.  Offering a mix of humility and tenacity, Stephan James delivers an impressive performance as our lead Jesse Owens.  He brings heart to the screen on and off the track.  For his part as Larry Snyder, Jason Sudeikis delivers one strong advocate who provides the mentoring presence the role demands.  Finally, we have Jeremy Irons as Olympics committee president Avery Brundage.  As usual, he delivers one slippery fellow that creates a great deal of intrigue.

gets a 0.03% rating.  Have a few wine coolers with this surprisingly good February release.