Saturday, 4 June 2016

"Race" (Guardian 03/06/16)

Race ***
Dir: Stephen Hopkins. With: Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, William Hurt. 134 mins. Cert: PG

More marathon than sprint, Stephen Hopkins’ period biopic affords the Jesse Owens story – one of the greatest eff-yous ever recorded in competitive sports – a reverential, middle-of-the-pack treatment: stumbling exposition, grandstanding performers, a thousand yards of rousing speeches and music cues. It’s regrettably typical that Stephan James’ Jesse should be given a Caucasian interlocutor in coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis, reining in the smirks); and that his personal struggles are partially obscured by the negotiations of diplomat Jeremy Irons with a chilly Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat) and saucy Leni Riefenstahl (Carice van Houten). Still, it raises its game – as drama, spectacle and camp – the closer it gets to the Olympic Stadium, where Hitler awaits, muttering darkly in the stands like a Voldemort in epaulettes. That it remains broadly watchable owes much to James’ lean, committed turn, but what’s around him often seems to be carving its lightning-bolt history not into stone, but easily digestible cheese.

Race is now playing in selected cinemas. 

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