‘Race’ Chronicles Jesse Owens’s Rise to Olympic Glory

The ingredients of “Race,” a studiously uplifting biopic of Jesse Owens, the phenomenal star of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, remain as volatile as they were 80 years ago, although nowadays they are camouflaged. This true story of an impoverished black youth from the streets of Depression-era Cleveland who ascends to greatness by shattering track-and-field records and undercutting Adolf Hitler’s racist agenda is a safe, by-the-numbers tribute.

The movie smacks its lips when Hitler abruptly leaves the stadium after Owens (Stephan James, who played the civil rights activist and future Congressman John Lewis in “Selma”) wins one of his medals. Each of his four victories leaves Joseph Goebbels (Barnaby Metschurat), the Nazi minister of culture and propaganda, more grimly crestfallen.

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