The Reel Review

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In 1936, the nine members of the University of Washington junior varsity rowing team, the sons of working-class shipbuilders, loggers and farmers, overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to beat better-funded, more elite rowing teams and represent the USA at the Summer Olympics in Berlin. Joel Edgerton and Callum Turner (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) star in this sports biopic based on Daniel James Brown’s 2013 New York Times #1 bestseller about this incredible true story.

Callum Turner in The Boys in the Boat

The story sounds almost too good to be true, but the movie really does lays it all out, pretty much as events really happened. After a slow, clunky and amateurish start, director George Clooney finally finds his directorial sea legs in the film’s second hour, which becomes a rousing, montage-filled crowd pleaser with gorgeous period visuals and lots of exciting race footage, all set to a stirring score from Oscar-winning composer Alexander Desplat (The Shape of Water, The Grand Budapest Hotel).

Joel Phillimore, Callum Turner, Sam Strike, Tom Varey, Thomas Elms, Luke Slattery, Bruce Herbelin-Earle and Wil Coban in The Boys in the Boat

While the movie itself would have benefitted from more character development and storytelling that didn’t have such a predictable, paint-by-number feel to it, the feel-good subject matter itself is just so amazing that all of that doesn’t really matter. The Boys in the Boat effectively captures the thrill and speed of rowing, culminating in an inspiring, tear-inducing and crowd-pleasing finale.

REEL FACTS

• Below are four incredible true facts and one liberty that the film took:

  • The University of California coach did give the University of Washington money to go to Berlin and compete
  • One rower lost 15 lbs when he got sick just before the Olympics
  • German officials gave team USA a poor lane assignment despite USA having the best qualifying time
  • The US team did get a very late start due to not hearing the start pistol
  • The race itself, however, was NOT determined by a photo finish
Dua Lipa and Callum Turner in New York City April 2024

• British actor Callum Turner, who was in a four-year relationship actress Vanessa Kirby, has been in a relationship with singer Dua Lipa since January 2024.

The 1936 USA Rowing Olympic gold medalists

• None of the actors hired to be the rowers had prior rowing experience. They trained four hours a day for several months to get into shape to successfully row a 46-stroke minute in the finale.

 

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