A very great start to 2024 for Warner Brothers with George Clooney’s ‘The Boys In The Boat’ [based on the best selling book by Daniel James Brown]. An awe-inspiring sports film set during the peak of the Great Depression. Members of the rowing team at the University of Washington get thrown into the spotlight as they compete for gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
The true story, a rousing tale as much as a significant piece of history, takes place in post Depression Washington state. Joe Rantz, a self-starter abandoned by his father and stepmother at a young age, lives in a shanty town and dreams big. Although he’s stubborn and hard working to a fault, self determination doesn’t pay the bills. Luckily, a fellow student encourages Joe to try out for the university rowing team, a spot that would come with food and lodging and enough money to pay for school.
He shows up to tryouts with hundreds of other guys in the same situation , where Coach Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton) and Assistant Coach Tom Bolles (James Wolk) make it clear that the stakes are high: there are 9 spots (and some alternates) to fill. It’s grueling a nd thankless, but when Joe makes the team, it’s only the beginning of his journey. Though they’re all from different backgrounds and bring drastically contrasting perspectives to the boat , the 9 men form a unit — and eventually an unbreakable bond. They go on to beat their local rival, securing a place representing the USA at the Olympics and overcoming incredible adversity to win the gold.
A true underdog tale about working as a team, The Boys In The Boat depicts a beautiful landscape for the social and economic conditions of the time. Deftly navigating the staggering disparity between the haves and the have – nots leading up to World War II, Clooney and team deliver a heart-warming and bold tale of perseverance and unity.
I was very intrigued by the cast choices and film synopsis. Following several young men pushing for their dreams, to winning gold, and becoming Olympic champions during the 1936 Olympics was inspiring, entertaining and very emotional. The story’s focus on Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) as the main protagonist showed us a lot of great depth to his character and with the journey that proceeds him. His journey within the society in the Great Depression really highlighted the lack of opportunities he had in his life, which Rowing was his own choice.
His alleged severance with his father was used so well to justify his strong will and determination to become part of the Rowing Team that pushed for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Callum’s performance was fantastic and he’s ever so talented. Coach Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton) was a stellar coach that shined so much during the film. I loved the performance by Joel who certainly delivers on-screen and embodied that great feeling of spirit, motivation and confidence.
There was so many great moments in the film that showed us his range; and paired well with Callum. Hazel Ulbrickson (Courtney Henggeler) another familiar face from the popular Netflix show ‘Cobra Kai’ series was a great addition to the film, shining whenever she was on-screen, with her sweet charm, guidance and charisma as the loving wife of Coach Ulbrickson.
“What was really interesting to us was the period of time that they were at the University of Washington and taking on sort of three different groups: first the UW Seniors, then the rich, fraternity kids…then the Nazis,” Clooney says.
The Boys In The Boat movie had great cinematography, great pacing, scintillating dialogue, inspiring characteristics, tense sports action and a feel-good sense that viewers will find pleasurable when watching on the big screen. A great first directorial debut for George Clooney and to set off the expectations on films in 2024!
Written by Shamoon Saeed: Pop Culture Features Editor/Student Pages Magazine