Tropic Sprockets / The Boys in the Boat

By Ian Brockway

George Clooney directs “The Boys in the Boat” a historical WWII biopic about Olympian Joe Rantz and his coach Al Ulbrickson. The film is handsomely produced with gold tones to its cinematography by Martin Ruhe that recalls old Hollywood. Though it is conventional and does not break new ground, it is breezy, heartfelt, and pleasant.

In 1936, Rantz (Callum Turner) is an engineering student at the University of Washington, barely making ends meet. He has two weeks to make tuition. Rantz’s friend Roger Morris (Sam Strike) tells him of a scholarship job with the rowing team. Rantz mops floors tuition.

The hard-nosed coach Al Ulbrickson (Joel Edgerton) allows Rantz to try out for the JV team. He passes the test. After slipping up, upset by seeing his estranged father, Rantz is on board to compete against the rival team Cal in the Pacific Coast Regatta. Washington is victorious.

Ulbrickson then tells the university that he intends to promote the JV team— thought inferior— to the Olympics in Berlin to compete against Germany.

The team is energized, and the film shifts into an underdog story.

With Rantz’s love interest Joyce (Hadley Robinson) having pinup model looks, the film takes on the look of a 1940s Hollywood magazine.

The film is amiable, engaging and pleasing to the eye and Callum Turner has a silent mysterious charisma, but it is Jessie Owens (Jyuddah Jaymes) who has the best line of the film.

The finale, though predictable by 40 boat lengths away, still manages to be cheer-worthy. Entertaining it is to realize that the race photograph had to be manually developed to determine the winner. And it remains doubly so to watch Hitler (Daniel Philpott) turn away in absolute disgust.

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