Vol. 17, No. 20 – June 26 – July 9, 2024 – Movie Review

Streaming Spotlight by Cindy Summers
The Boys in the Boat – Prime Video

4 out of 4 palm trees

The Boys in the Boat” was produced and directed by George Clooney and based on true events involving the 1936 Washington University JV rowing team and their journey to the Summer Olympics. In 1936, Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) was studying engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle. Due to the depression, jobs were scarce so in order to pay his tuition Joe decided to tryout for the university rowing team along with his friend Jim McMillin (Wil Coban), which provided them with a part-time job and place to live if they made the team.

The team was coached by Head Coach Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton) and Coach Tom Bolles (James Wolk) who told the crowd of nearly two hundred young men that gathered that they were looking for the eight most qualified young men to fill out the JV boat. The next few weeks they were overwhelmed with extreme physical endurance challenges while also learning proper rowing techniques.

Joe and Jim both made the team, even though neither had ever done any rowing before tryouts. Each position in the boat played a specific role in rowing the boat. One through three were tasked with using the proper technique to keep the boat on course, four through six were like the engine room providing power, seven set the pace and eight the stroke. Joe was assigned to seat seven while Jim was assigned to seat five. After a mediocre start, Coach Ulbrickson switched the JV boat to experienced coxswain Bobby Moch (Luke Slattery) and the team started performing better.

They were trying to get ready for the upcoming Pacific Coast Regatta on Lake Washington against their rivals the Cal Bears of Berkley, who had won the regatta for many consecutive years. The JV teams raced first and Washington let Cal keep the lead until the halfway mark, then Washington surged passed Cal and were neck and neck three quarters down the course with Washington pulling ahead a full boat length to win with a time nine seconds under the coarse record. Next was the four-mile Poughkeepsie Regatta in New York for a chance at participating in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

Coach Ulbrickson took a chance that risked his job and chose to have the Washington JV team compete instead of the varsity team. Joe had seen his long-lost dad in Seattle which caused him to perform badly at practice so the coach benched him for the race. Just as in the race against Cal, Bobby kept the team back through the first half of the race letting the other teams think they had easily bested Washington, but again they took off in the second half and beat Navy, Cal and the other privileged eastern schools to clinch their spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.

They traveled to Nazi Germany, but upon arriving eighth-seat rower Don Hume (Jack Mulhern) fell ill. Don was able to row in the qualifiers and the team set an Olympic record, but it took a toll on Don. Adolf Hitler attended the finals expected the Germans to win gold in all of the rowing events. When the starting gun sounded, Bobby didn’t hear it and the team was off to a bad start and Don was struggling to keep the pace, but Bobby’s great leadership turned things around and led the team to a photo finish with Italy and Germany, with the U.S. winning the gold medal.

The Boys in the Boat” is inspiring not only by the underdog triumphs of the team, but also the faith and trust Coach Al Ulbrickson had in risking his career in an unconventional move that brought home Olympic gold.

Runtime: 2h 6m

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