Plot : The triumphant underdog story of the University of Washington mens rowing team, who stunned the world by competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Cast Members

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Living out of a dilapidated old car on a piece of waste ground in a suburb of Seattle, Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) travels each day to the University of Washington where he studies engineering. Using newspapers to stop-up the holes in his boots, we learn quickly that he's pretty poverty stricken and when told he has to fund the second half of his semester, is facing quite a challenge. Luckily, his pal Roger Morris (Sam Strike) discovers that getting a spot on the rowing team would get them both a job and a bed. To the try-outs they go, but they don't expect virtually everyone else to be there too! A tough series of rigorous training exercises ensue and thanks to a developing relationship with boat-builder George Pocock (Peter Guinness) he actually begins to want this. It's not just about the job anymore - it's about pride in achievement. The fact that it also impresses Joyce Simdars (Hadley Robinson) as well is no bad thing, so under the guidance of head coach Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton) the team is selected and must attempt to break some recent ducks to ensure it's continued funding and to, maybe, get a place at the forthcoming Berlin Olympiad. I first saw Turner in "Glue" (2014) and thought he had potential as a decent looking and quite proficient actor who seems to play the more reticent and shy character effectively. Here he works well as a man with a mission. Edgerton is also on good-form as the inspirational teacher but the star of the show for me, though, is their feisty and shrewd little cox Bobby Moch (Luke Slattery) who rather summed up the whole ethos of the all-for-one team spirit. The photography and general look of the film is engaging, as is the Alexandre Desplat score and George Clooney allows Turner et al to deliver a story of strong characters in the face of tough circumstances naturally and sympathetically. Not too sure Adolf was too impressed at the end!

A pretty standard sports biopic. It successfully tells a feel-good underdog story. Events do meander in parts, but for the vast majority it's a solid watch. Callum Turner is, as you'd expect given he's the main character, the film's standout, I enjoyed his performance. Joel Edgerton is good too, as is Hadley Robinson in a small role. I also dug the score used throughout, at plenty of moments I could feel myself appreciating Alexandre Desplat's work. One thing, and the only thing if I'm honest, that I didn't like was how the film uses Adolf Hitler at the end. It just felt needless, especially as they overshow him reacting to the rowing like 4 or 5 times in a short period. Then he walks offscreen in a down-on-his-luck movie baddie sorta way, rather than as a literal evil dictator. Just odd. The likeness of the actor threw me off a bit as well, if not for the stache I wouldn't have known it was that guy to be honest. Tangent aside, 'The Boys in the Boat' is a satisfactory movie.

When it comes to underdog stories, there are offerings that are decidedly inspirational and those that are riddled with clichés. As for the latest in this genre from director George Clooney, the film falls squarely in the latter category. Although capably made for the most part, this fact-based account about the 1936 US Olympic gold medal-winning eight-man rowing team is positively rife with shopworn predictable sports story tropes, nearly all of which can be handily spotted from a mile away. While the period piece production values and cinematography are generally solid, much of the rest of the picture is about as pedestrian as one can get, from the screenplay to the narrative to the performances. The release also features some unusual camera work and film editing, most of which adds nothing and comes across as more puzzling than anything else. What’s more, there are few meaningful tie-ins to the site of the 1936 Games – Berlin in Adolph Hitler’s Germany – an aspect of the story that serves as little more than a backdrop but carries few, if any, other connotations. To be honest, I expect more from a filmmaker like Clooney in terms of cinematic imagination and inventiveness, but those attributes are almost entirely lacking here. In short, “The Boys in the Boat” is fundamentally bland and unengaging – by no means a bad film but certainly a second-rate production that fails to get viewers particularly excited, enthused or inspired.

A well made period piece. Near total absence of woke themes and perversions. Bravo George Clooney!!

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