Set in the 1980s with a soundtrack featuring New Order, The Smiths, The Clash, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Cure, The History Boys follows a group of boisterous young men preparing to present their A-levels in history for admittance into Oxford and Cambridge. What are A-levels, you ask? Wikipedia defines them as follows:
A-levels (Advanced Levels) are courses which are taken by British 16-18 year-olds who hold 'advanced' levels of intelligence. The courses are the way to get to university and thus set their proud owner up for a life of unimaginable riches, unimaginable luxury and unimaginable sex. All because you have A-levels.
In this character-driven drama, you get to know the gifted students in their hunger to achieve and learning about themselves. Main character Dakin (Dominic Cooper) believes his smarts and good looks will get him anything. Posner (Samuel Barnett) who has a crush on Dom and his verve. Teacher Hector (Richard Griffiths) loves drama and poetry and has the boys recite poetry or break into song, but this is no time for singing. The headmaster is worried that if they don’t get it, he won’t be able to clock any victories for his school. He brings in Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) to fine-tune them to impress with new perspectives on history. As the young men work harder to excel, you start seeing a parallel: Just as in history with wars and battles, they want to win and conquer.
The History Boys plays like a live theater production (makes sense as screenplay was written by Alan Bennett and based on his award-winning play). Most of the film happens in the classroom. The banter is well timed. There are several short musical numbers and movie scenes providing meta drama. There’s also an element of pedophilia in the form of fondling. It’s happening isn’t betrayed but everyone knows about it. Is this another historical parallel? The ending is a shock and then reminiscent of the series finale of Six Feet Under. The History Boys is worth a view. The original Broadway production opened in New York in 2006 and won the 2006 Tony Award for the Best Play. Eleven of the actors recreated their Broadway roles in the movie. Barnett was nominated for the 2006 Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play.
Director: Nicholas Hytner
Run time: 109 minutes