The Boys in the Boat

December 28, 202350/1006 min
Joel Edgerton, Callum Turner, Peter Guinness
Written by
Daniel James Brown ( based on the book by), Mark L. Smith ( screenplay by)
Directed by
George Clooney
Run Time
2h 4min
Release Date
December 25th, 2023
Overall Score
Rating Summary

Everyone loves an underdog story, and the ones in sports, especially, find a soft spot in our hearts. It is for that reason that there is no shortage of those films coming out of the Hollywood eco-system, and for the most part, audiences eat them up. I think we do so because it reaffirms that no matter the odds, sometimes the impossible becomes possible, or maybe we just like to root for the underdog. Whatever the reason, The Boys in the Boat is a story involving a row team that just happened to row, row, their boat against-the-odds to victory.

At the University of Washington in the early 1930s, Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) is looking for a way to pay his tuition for the upcoming semester. That search will end if he can make the school’s eight-man row team; all he has to do is beat out a bunch of other guys. The team is led by Coach Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton), and his standards are pretty high, as he really wants to put a good team together. Joe, of course, makes the team, and with the seven other guys, who are newer to rowing, they set out to become the best J.V. team out there. Things, though, go a little differently than expected, as Joe’s team is a little, or should I say a lot, better than anticipated and not only challenge the varsity team but actually surpass them. They are so good that Coach Ulbrickson sends them to compete instead of the varsity, and they win, which qualifies them for the 1936 Olympics. After facing some difficulties in getting there, these boys on this boat do the unthinkable and win the gold for the U.S.

Written by Mark L. Smith from Daniel James Brown’s book of the same name,  The Boys on The Boat feels like a Cliff Notes version of the story. Everything feels like it happens on fast forward; I mean, one day these guys can’t row, and the next thing you know, boom, Olympic champions. There also seems to be a lack of the right ingredients for an underdog story, as there never is any establishment of basic teamwork skills. There is no clear villain or rival. Which is strange since, you know 1936? Nazis? It doesn’t have to be Indiana Jones, but it could have done something with that history. The story is not the only thing that gets the brief treatment, as so do the characters; things are often just touched on, as there doesn’t feel like time to go into much detail.

The Boys in The Boat ultimately gives you something to cheer for because, as I mentioned earlier, everyone loves an underdog. While there is still some heart in there, it can sometimes be hard to feel, as behind the skillful direction of George Clooney, who gives us a steady and workmanlike job. Everything looks good, and although the ending gives you good feelings, the rest of the picture is just kind of, there. As for exceptions, The Boys in The Boat  does exactly what you think it will do; I hoped, however, that the screenplay had some more challenging aspects to it. With that said, I am glad this story got told, if nothing else will lead people to the book. Unfortunately this doesn’t feel like something that will stay with you; it just ends up being a well-made movie, which it not the worst thing to be in todays climate.

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