The Boys in the Boat

Verdict: George Clooney delivers an old-fashioned crowd-pleasing sports movie that you can't help but get invested in

  • Joel Edgerton, Hadley Robinson, Courtney Henggeler
  • January 12th 2024
  • George Clooney

Callum Turner and Joel Edgerton star in George Clooney’s biographical sports drama about an underdog rowing team.

George Clooney has stepped behind the camera once again to direct the underdog sports film The Boys in the Boat.

The biographical drama follows the University of Washington and their quest to represent the U.S. at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. The narrative focuses on penniless student Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) who signs up to the rowing team simply because it comes with accommodation and enough pay to cover his tuition.

The Boys in the Boat is a very traditional movie and one you wouldn’t normally see in the cinema nowadays. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing! It is simple, straightforward, low stakes and rather predictable but it’s still a stirring crowd-pleaser you can’t help but become invested in.

It’s hard to resist an inspirational underdog story and both Rantz and the team as a whole fit the bill. Rantz was abandoned by his family and left to fend for himself when he was 14 and he has clearly never had a win – or been part of a team – for a long time.

The University of Washington rowing team doesn’t have as much money as its rivals in California and on the East Coast and struggles to cobble together funds – an issue its wealthy counterparts do not face. You might find yourself cheering them on, wanting them to beat their privileged rivals, during the exciting races.

However, Mark L. Smith’s screenplay needed some work and there were unnecessary opening and closing chapters of an older Rantz. They were not needed and the final line of the film was cringe-inducingly corny.

Joel Edgerton stood out as the team’s coach Al Ulbrickson thanks to his slow transformation from a hard-nosed taskmaster to a warmer person who can actually smile. Luke Slattery was also terrific as the team’s talented coxswain Bobby, who yelled instructions with a cone strapped to his mouth.

Clooney could have done more to make The Boys in the Boat level up but his old-fashioned approach still delivered an enjoyable tale.

In cinemas from Friday 12th January.

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