- Running time:
- 109 minutes
- Richard Griffiths -
- Frances de la Tour -
- Mrs. Lintott
- Stephen Campbell Moore -
- Tom Irwin
- Samuel Barnett -
- Dominic Cooper -
Set in a British boys school during the 1980s, the film focuses on a group of teens prepping for Oxford and Cambridge entrance exams. The students somewhat unexpectedly find themselves in the middle of an educational "evolution," in which the traditional focus on historical information gives way to an emphasis on unique ideas and the ability to present the most interesting argument, regardless of factual accuracy.
Illuminating, yes, but also potentially headache inducing. That said, sparkling dialogue and some fine performances—including Samuel Barnett and Dominic Cooper as two of the boys and Stephen Campbell Moore and Frances de la Tour as their teachers—await anyone up for the challenge. It's also worth noting that several of the main characters are gay, and their sexuality drives the story in unpredictable ways.
But those game for a film driven by concepts rather than action still face several hurdles: Numerous historical references add a literate quality but are often obscure, and the minutiae of the British school system will seem foreign to most Americans (even if "Harry Potter" has taught us a bit).
The movie also suffers from a sense of archaic filmmaking—as though summoning a time when committing a play's original cast to film was enough to invite audience interest.
"History Boys" knows it appeals to a rarefied crowd, and fails in not delivering more than that same target would've gone to see on stage.
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