Jesse Owens dreams of winning a gold medal and being the best athlete he can be, thrust into the spotlight in the very controversial 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. He overcomes all of the odds to prove just how good he is. This film shows his rise and accomplishments that almost didn’t actually happen!
As I am sure you are aware by now that I totally love everything about sports films as they tell a story of hope and courage as an athlete tries to achieve the very best. This is a truly powerful and fantastic film, showing everything Jesse Owens had to overcome to get to the Olympics. The way he was treated in the US was at times worse than in Berlin, it still wasn’t a positive time for black people, the cheating he had to get past in order for his times to be recorded correctly.
The determination from Owens really is worth watching this film for, the performance from Stephan James is just brilliant. I throughly enjoyed everything about the way he was acting in this film. He really did bring so much to the character and the main thing is that we really did care about him. Yes he made some mistakes, like when he ended up with another woman but he did the right thing in end and I thought that was very reassuring. As let’s face it people will make mistakes and not everything is going to work out to begin with. Especially with his relationship being a key factor in how he was in training.
This certainly ticks the boxes for a great athlete-coach story as well, Larry Synder only ever saw him as an athlete the colour of his skin made no difference at all. He was impressed right away with how fast he was and wanted to be able to help make him even faster. A good challenge and the pair really did look after each other and made sure they were not left behind by the other. Especially when the Olympic team did not want Synder involved. That certainly brought some great moments.
The Berlin games in 1936 was probably the most corrupt Olympics that has ever been, with Hitler’s regime on the rise and certain people not being allowed to compete because of religion and even colour. Although Owens made sure he could take part and he really did change everything with the gold medals he won. They had banned videos of certain events and races so people would not be able to see the result and what happened with them.
So I really do think that this is a very important film not only for sports history but for history in general. When the world was starting to fall apart sport helped to keep some people together and support one another. Wanting to compete to be the best (and beat the best). Carl “Luz” Long was a perfect example of this as he actually helped Owens beat him to the gold medal in the long jump, but he explains that of course he wanted to win but wanted it to be a fair contest. I thought the scenes between the pair were brilliant and really help to show the power of sport. I am sure that has not really changed over the years.
Very pleased to have watched this film which has just come onto Netflix UK, I really do recommend watching this one!