The Boys In The Boat is a heartfelt film about rowing in the era of The Great Depression as it delves into the theme of bonding through sportsmanship in a tumultuous time.
Director George Clooney displays the importance of teamwork from the start, exemplifying that commitment is crucial. The film is set in an era of financial deficits and not many avenues are available for college students who do not have much money. Rowing becomes an opportunity for the young men in this situation. Inspirational in as much as it tugs on emotions, The Boys In The Boat is however lacking in its ability to fulfill.
The film takes place in Seattle, Washington. The year is 1936 and the setting is the University of Washington. A time when finances for education are not easy to come by for many students.
The first student the film introduces is Joe Rantz (played by Callum Turner). He lives in a broken-down car most of his days since he cannot put a roof over his head. The second student is Roger Morris (played by Sam Strike). He has a mind for engineering, but his finances are the blockade to him getting an education. Both Joe and Roger find themselves in dire circumstances, which leads them to join the rowing team of University of Washington. Their coach is Al Ulbrickson. The rest of their teammates are Chuck Day (played by Thomas Elms), Don Hume (played by Jack Mulhern), Shorty Hunt (played by Bruce Herbellin-Earle), Jim McMillin (played by Will Coban), Johnny White (played by Tom Varey), and Gordy Adam (played by Joel Phillimore). They are a team that will thrive and encourage each other to soar to new heights in their sport.
The writing in the film delivers a strong message of sportsmanship and encouragement. There is a quote in the film, “Every good race has a jockey”, which exemplifies that every position in the boat has a different responsibility during a race. The power and angling are controlled by the rowers in the back. Speed is the duty for the front rowers. All together though, everyone must deliver as much power as they can and the timing must be perfect.
There is also another quote in the film, “Technique is more important than power.” This becomes true to the aspects of winning in The Boys in the Boat. The boys learn that momentum and synchronicity are the most important building blocks to keep their power going. All of this creates a feel-good experience as they come together as a team and as friends.
The writing begins to lack when the politics of academia enter the story. The biggest issue is finances. The University of Washington cannot compete financially with the wealthier Ivy League schools during this economic time and the resources for a rowing program are scarce. The performances of the rowers do not matter when money and reputation of other schools come first.
The unfair advantage of the Ivy league schools is the component that is unclear. Edgerton’s performance as the coach shines with realistic frustration and turmoil. He wants his team to be one of an achievement, but the academic and financial factors keep interfering with their chances of success. Harvard and Yale have the upper hand and he has to find a way for his team to stay in competition.
The road to the Berlin Olympics is the shining accomplishment awaiting in The Boys in the Boat. This climactic moment of the film brings home a strong message of persistence and sportsmanship. Unfortunately, the ironies of the political and financial issues get lost in poor writing and make the script fall short of its full potential in exposing the turmoil they create. There are still politics today when it comes to colleges and sports, however this era depended on survival through pure fortitude and belief in the hope of a better future. It brought forth the ones that shine the brightest lights.
Three out of four stars.