Bill Nighy as Jeremy Saville in True Blue
Tagline : Based on the true story of the 1987 Oxford University boat race mutiny and coach Dan Topolski’s miraculous training of a haggard, rag-tag team into a winning outfit.
This is the rowing film from Britain, certainly of the century, probably of all time. “True Blue” is competently filmed, pacey and interesting; the acting is strong, and the film works for several levels of audience.
A very thorough review of the film True Blue.
On one level, True Blue is a distillation of the brutal physicality and unique focus demanded of participants in the annual University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge. Based on legendary oarsman and Oxford coach Dan Topolksi’s book about the 1987 race, it is also a tale of revenge; dominant Oxford had been defeated the year before and wanted the title back. More than that, though, it is a story of sporting obsession and the Machiavellian resources required to last the course in an event shrouded in ritual. When a clutch of lantern-jawed American international rowers muscle in on the Oxford team and threaten, quite literally, to rock the boat with their disregard for any of the tradition surrounding the race or Topolski’s coaching methods, the fragile concept of team spirit is splintered.
Ferdinand Fairfax’s film, full of fine performances, builds the tension through a series of confrontations and a constantly shifting balance of power over the year leading up to the race. The intuitive relationship between the besieged Topolski (the excellent Johan Leysen) and the President of the College Captains, Donald McDonald (the quietly impassioned Dominic West) is particularly well drawn. With more than a hint of Chariots of Fire, not least in the Vangelis-like soundtrack, this is a moving and beautifully observed film about sporting passion.