The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat
The Boys in the Boat
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That is the sort of movie people mean when they say, “they don’t make movies like that anymore.” Daniel James Brown’s novel, “The Boys in the Boat” has been turned into a movie which is based on true events. “The Boys in the Boat” film may seem a little bit old-fashioned to you but it will surely meet your expectations. The classic underdog story is not lost on director George Clooney who knows how to present it with superb visuals and sincere acting.

Rowing as shown here in this story is one sport quite suited for the cameras; its oars moving synchronously like Rockettes kick line over a water that is as smooth as glass and tinged with early morning pink. All this captures our attention and sympathy quickly, especially considering young men coming of age during the darkest years of the Depression. They have holes in their shoes and are always hungry. Both they and their coach know that all these hardships they’ve experienced made them ready to do anything just to escape from them.

Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) gives an insightful portrayal of himself as a child since his mother died and now he has no father. He does not have a home, so if he does not pay his school fees then he will be expelled. Because there are almost no jobs available anywhere near campus, the University of Washington says it supports any man who can earn a place on its rowing team financially. Many come out for tryouts for what their coach calls, “the most demanding sport there ever was.” Adding, “The average human body is not fit.” Rowers require twice as much lung capacity as normal individuals do while also maintaining “perfect unison” or precisely coordinating their moves which they call “swing”. According to Coach Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton), what remains at this point is no longer separate but eight separate segments of one racehorse.

Joe makes the team; if you’ve ever watched a sports movie about an underdog that’s what you would expect. To show how challenging the training is and how much effort they must put in, there is a montage of them practicing. The scenes from the practices and races are breathtakingly beautiful; kaleidoscopic overhead shots that show the oars flashing into and out of water at 45 strokes per minute. We do not get to know much about any of the teammates, except that Donny (Jack Mulhern) is very shy and barely speaks, but can play “We’re in the Money” on the piano. The more conventional plotting continues; team members have holes in their hands with Joe falling asleep during classes, coxswain not working well enough, one coach reminding boys that this will be for all those who did not believe in them while listening attentively to radio report of race by a girlfriend.

Hadley Robinson plays Joe’s beautiful and lively classmate Joyce who reminds him that he used to have a crush on her during their childhood. Also, there is the attractive and energetic wife called Hazel (Courtney Henggeler) of Coach Ulbrickson. The women in this movie are nothing more than pretty, lively and always supporting characters. However, this story is about men. Joe’s relationship stresses come from his absent father. When he sees him, knowing that his father has been back in Seattle but still made no effort to look for him, it gives us a glimpse into the work that Joe must do to become the team member and lover that he hopes to be through a short scene between people who do not have words for what they feel or any sense of remorse or sympathy about turning away from one another. This will also help Joe with George Pocock (Peter Guinness), who makes racing shells by hand for the team. Within Pocock and Ulbrickson lays another definition of manhood—or even fatherhood—according to Clooney.

Ulbrickson risks his career to take an under-trained junior varsity crew to Olympic trials where they would face off with Ivy League rowers from wealthy families whose natural resources enabled them learn how to paddle when they were kids, while on their own end they aim at beating the best in Berlin Olympics which Hitler premised as an opportunity for Germany to demonstrate its superiority over all other nations. An interesting moment occurs when Washington squad headed by Jesse Owens talk briefly with American legend as they enter the stadium asking if he came here merely for show? In less than thirty seconds Owens speaks volumes about dignity “To show the people at home” – says Jyuddah Jaymes as Owens answers back politely but firmly; it was probably those words which inspired many African Americans including James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens (1913-1980). This might be an ancient story narrated in an ancient way, but sometimes that’s the best way to remind us that we are better than those who never believed.

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