Movie Review: Race’s history lessons don’t gather momentum

Race will probably be described as a biopic—and it sort of is one—but technically speaking, it does what a lot of filmed biographies refuse to do. Rather than tracing the life of Olympic athlete Jesse Owens from childhood to the grave, it follows him from his freshman year of college at Ohio State to his triumph at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. That is to say it covers a period of about two years, here compressed enough to feel like six or seven months, helping its 134-minute running time along. When he arrives at his new and sometimes-hostile school, Owens (Stephan James) is quickly recruited by track coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), who has one eye on recapturing former Ohio State track glory—and the other on the upcoming Olympic trials.

Their partnership falls somewhere between typical mentor-protégé stuff and lightly mismatched buddy comedy (minus the laughs, for the …

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