The Boys in the Boat (Theatrical)

A 1930s-set story centered on the University of Washington's rowing team, from their Depression-era beginnings to winning gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

January 19, 2024 4 Min Read

Review by: Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

Say what you will about him, but it is interesting to think that Geroge Clooney has been active on TV, behind the camera and in front of for decades now. One can argue the varying degrees of success he’s had with each project, but he is a jack of all trades in the entertainment industry. The Boys in the Boat is an old-fashioned sports film that would’ve been a dime-a-dozen back in the 90’s or so when these films were made much more frequently. It does feel like a passion project for Clooney even if the results don’t register quite as he was intending. Still, for fans of this sort of thing, you could do a lot worse.

Set in Seattle, Washington during the 1930’s, one of our lead characters is Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) who is having a hard time making ends meet. He is told that he may not be able to continue his education if he can’t find the funds to pay for his school. He learns that if he gets on the boating team that this will also act as a job for him which will provide the funds to remain in school. Joel Edgerton plays Coach Al Ulbrickson. Rantz is one athlete of many, but his character is given the most screen time. There’s a female lead here in Joyce Simdars played by Hadley Robinson. She and Turner have a nice chemistry together. She is clearly the aggressor as she shows a clear interest in Rantz even though, at least at first, his priorities are clear. I haven’t rowed much in my life, but I can say for the few times I have that it is indeed quite a workout. We’ve seen countless sports films, but I don’t recall many (if at all) about a rowing team. I found that element refreshing even if the basic structure here has been seen before.

I enjoyed the film as I was watching it, even if I knew of the formula it followed as well as it feels slight. I appreciate the authenticity it brings to recreating this era. It’s also refreshing to find a film like this today when franchise films seem to dominate. It’s a pleasant film geared toward an adult audience. It avoids a lot of the things that are all too evident in a lot of modern films. As for it being cliched and following a formula, I don’t mind if the formula itself works. Sometimes it’s good to just go along with a film. I will say that I did even if the result didn’t resonate much. I enjoyed it as I watched it, but it quickly left my mind as I exited the theater.

The Bottom Line

The Boys in the Boat is a formula sports picture, but I didn’t mind. It is surprisingly refreshing to see in today’s world when these films don’t dominate like they once did. In short: it’s good counterprograming. It may not resonate or be something I need to see over and over, but it is worth a single viewing. Check it out