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The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

The student news site of Bellaire High School

Three Penny Press

A lost legacy: Why “The Boys in the Boat” deserves more praise

Art by Johanna Wen
Members of the University of Washington rowing team included Don Hume, Joseph Rantz, George E. Hunt, James B. McMillin, John G. White, Gordon B. Adam, Charles Day, Roger Morris and coxswain Robert G. Moch. They rowed for the United States in the 1936 Summer Olympics, bringing home the gold medal.

In 1936, nine Americans bursting with youthful ambition rowed fast enough to win the gold medal at the Berlin Olympics.

In doing so, they defeated their international competitors and refuted the doubts of many U.S. citizens back home. No one had expected to witness such a noble victory, especially with a team full of rookies.

It’s safe to say the odds were against them.

But what’s interesting about this story is how little it’s discussed. How could such an inspiring tale of triumph and dedication be overlooked by many, myself included? Maybe because it was overshadowed by more significant historical events at around the same time, like the Great Depression or World War II. Or perhaps it’s because rowing isn’t as popular compared to sports like football or baseball that attract huge crowds today.

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Whatever the reason, it’s unfortunate that it slipped through the cracks of time.

However, in 2013, a book by Daniel James Brown was published, paying homage to the experiences of these nine men. And a decade later, that book was adapted into a movie.

Directed by George Clooney, “The Boys in the Boat” came out on December 25, 2023, and follows the University of Washington rowing team’s journey to gold.

I had seen trailers before I went to the theater to watch it, and I was expecting it to be an entertaining movie. It probably wouldn’t be the kind I’d want to watch repeatedly, but good nonetheless.

I wasn’t prepared for a masterpiece of a movie. It wasn’t just somewhat entertaining; it was the on-the-edge-of-my-seat kind of entertaining.

I wasn’t the only one who thought so either. My family loved it, too, which is one of the biggest reasons I love this movie. It has something for everyone, which prevents family movie nights from turning into full-fledged debates. I really enjoyed the history aspect. However, my dad liked the sports focus, my mom liked the feel-good message and my sister liked the suspense.

Another reason this movie was so good was the characters and the actors’ portrayal of them. Although the plot revolved around the entire rowing team, it tended to focus on one of the members, specifically Joe Rantz. He’s played by Callum Turner, who does an amazing job bringing his ambition and determination to life. I also deeply respect the acting ability of Joel Edgerton, who portrays head coach Al Ulbrickson. Edgerton captured his strict attitude and showcased his more vulnerable and genuine side, highlighting how much he cared about his team.

It wasn’t just the characters that made the audience root for them, but their development throughout the movie. My favorite instance of this was the growth of Robert Moch, played by Luke Slattery. As the boat’s coxswain, his job is to guide the eight rowers, advising them on direction and speed. I didn’t immediately like his character; he seemed a bit arrogant and judgemental.

However, that changed as the movie progressed, as Moch became more encouraging and supportive of his teammates. He became someone who carried himself not with arrogance but with an appropriate sense of sureness. He respected his teammates more than he did when he first met them; in return, they gave him their respect.

It’s undeniable that the actors did a superb job in bringing the characters to life. But I equally admire the people behind the scenes, who perfectly captured the historical setting.

The costumes and sets accurately depicted the 1930s, from the camel brown suits and geometric patterned ties to the crowded train station and the makeshift housing due to the Great Depression. The attention to detail is prominent and everything was clearly thought out, which I appreciate as someone who loves history.

Also, because it is based on a historical event, I thought the plot might be lacking, as building suspense and intrigue is harder when the outcome is already determined.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The movie was full of ups and downs, twists and turns, highs and lows. The racing scenes especially were intense. Even though I already knew Washington would win, it was still nerve-wracking as I watched others overtake their boat and then they would hastily have to catch up. This suspense made it all the more gratifying when they would inevitably cross the finish line in first place.

My only complaint about this movie is that it, like the story it tells, isn’t as widely known as it should be. It deserves much more attention and praise than it’s currently receiving.

Maybe it doesn’t have the biggest names in Hollywood acting or the most eye-catching digital effects. But that’s because it doesn’t have to.

It recounts an inspiring story that’s disappeared over the decades. And, sure, a quick search on Google would tell you the facts of that story.

But it would leave out what the movie flawlessly captures: the brotherhood, strength, diligence, tenacity and the true legacy of those nine boys in the boat.

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