In the 1930s, Joe (Callum Turner) is studying to become an engineer at university. Financially, he is struggling to make ends meet as he pays off school fees. Unsuccessful at finding a job, he is sleeping in his car each night. Joe hears of a paying job for the Washington rowing team, but he must prove he has what it takes mentally and physically to get the job.
After various days of tryouts, Coach Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton) announces that Joe and seven other men have made the squad. At the same time, he renews his friendship with an old childhood sweetheart, Joyce (Hadley Robinson), who is also attending the same University. Now Joe pushes himself harder than ever as he and his teammates hope their efforts lead them to the Berlin Olympics.
The Boys in the Boat is a dramatic film based on the historical events surrounding the University of Washington rowing team, who found themselves at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. This is George Clooney’s tenth film behind the camera as director, and it’s evident he has an ongoing passion for sports, war, and history.
Visually, The Boys in the Boat is enjoyable. The camera work is pleasing, including the shots of men rowing. Backgrounds, including locations and many extras, all in stunning costumes, are also impressive, and the film sets up the period convincingly. Sadly, the soundtrack by Alexandre Desplat is forgettable and lacks impact.
If you enjoy a classic underdog story, The Boys in the Boat will carry some appeal. However, viewers will witness many familiar beats and predictable outcomes. The many subplots that occur are standard for a sporting film and expected, including conflict and difficulties undergone by the leading character, along with a forced yet cheesy and vague romance. While I found myself interested in knowing the story, I never felt motivated, invested, or touched by all the drama. While everything may look great, the journey and experience move slowly and feel average. Performances are fine, but many characters seem wooden.
Overall, if you enjoy underdog films or films based on true stories, The Boys in the Boat will carry some appeal for you. Visually, George Clooney delivers a great-looking movie, and the efforts in costume and location are appreciated. But while there’s an exciting story here, particularly about history and rowing, it’s too predictable. The plot has a sense of beat-for-beat familiarity. I hoped the film would be inspiring, unexpected, or gripping. Sadly, I didn’t feel any of this personally. Instead, I felt the entire journey was slightly above average.