Considering that the 2012 London Summer Olympics cost $13 billion to produce (!), imagine a city trying to throw an Olympic party a couple years after a war? That was the situation when London agreed to host the first post-WWII Olympics in 1948, while rubble from repeated bombings was still piled in the city’s streets. Citizens were still on rationed food and the country was basically broke. However, officials and the hosts agreed that the event still must go on, proving a boon for the country, as well as the world, who needed some good news after such a devastating global conflict.
Based on a true story, Going for Gold follows a couple of British Olympians who are thrown together to be partners in the double scull rowing event. Bert Bushnel (Dr. Who‘s Matt Smith) is not quite medal material in his single scull event, and Richard “Dickie” Burnell (Sam Hoare) has bad luck with doubles partners who can’t pull their weight. But rowing legend and team coach Jack Beresford (The Tudors‘ James Frain) sees gold by putting the unlikely duo together as rowing partners.
The movie offers a good feeling about the scrappy nature of these Olympics. No new venues were built for the games, and visiting athletes were housed in private homes. There is a touching moment where a strapping American athlete is offered a delicious pork chop by his hosts who stand back and watch (claiming they had already eaten). After many lone meals (under watchful hungry eyes), the visitor is finally able to return the kindness by getting a feast shipped in from home to share with the Brits that housed him.
The clashing rowing pair Bert and Dickie finally bond over the fact that despite their differences, they share a similar burden: Both of them have overbearing fathers that pressure them with their own expectations. The lanky blond Dickie and the shorter, bookish Bert turn out to be (spoiler!) a golden pair. Overall, Going for Gold is a predictable charmer. The racing is fun to watch, and the politics behind the sport is fascinating. If you need a fix of Olympic spirit in the off-season, Going for Gold with do the job.