This was the first screening I attended last year. It’s amazing that they managed to make a film about the Boston Marathon bombing just over 3 years after it happened. The last few Peter Berg films have been so-so but what was different about this one was that it took a more grounded approach with its storytelling which made it much more compelling to watch and full of emotion. (original review)
Synopsis: Tragedy strikes on April 15, 2013, when two bombs explode during the Boston Marathon. In the aftermath of the attack, police Sgt. Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) and Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman) join courageous survivors, first responders and other investigators in a race against the clock to hunt down the suspects and bring them to justice. (
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, and Kevin Bacon.
Writers: Peter Berg, Mark Cook, and Joshua Zetemer.
Director: Peter Berg
Running Time: 133mins
The thing about being based on a recent true story is that we already know a lot of what happened so it has to rely on storytelling to set itself apart and that was the case here. It just had a great degree of authenticity which made the film an immersive experience, from the characters, the locations, the use of archival footage, and the cinematography which put it all together.
The film heavily focused on the human element here in following different characters who were affected in different ways from the bombing. These were real, imperfect people who were dealing with an almost impossible situation. This tragedy affected them on a personal level and the emotion behind it was palpable. The film did not pick a side or sensationalize the tragedy but was more about how tragedy can bring us all together.
The film perhaps had too many characters as it frequently jumped between them early on. Some were survivors, first responders, and other secondary characters implicated later on. For some with less knowledge of the incident and the people involved, this made things a little difficult to follow but got better as the film went on. This also made it difficult to create an emotional connection to a lot of them which then lessened the emotional impact of what happened to them.
The main focus here was a fictional police officer named Sgt. Tommy Saunders (Wahlberg). He was an amalgamation of the Boston police department and their efforts. He was very close to the community and the attack affected him on a deeply personal level. He was traumatized by the things he saw and he was determined to get back at those who were responsible.
He was pulled into the FBI investigation, led by Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Bacon). In a post 9/11 world, he was a little tentative with his investigation, having been hurt in the past. He didn’t want to needlessly throw the word terrorist around. They were quick in getting themselves set up and investigating. He had to balance performing his investigation while managing the outrage of the city of Boston. They were not alone, however, as they had help from Saunders and the surrounding police departments, who found a way to work together for the common good, and the city of Boston as a whole.
Their main adversaries, of course, were the Tsarnaev brothers, Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) and Tamerlan (Themo Melikidze). They were both young and impulsive and they hated America. Dzhokhar was the younger brother and the less intense of the two but he still believed in their mission. He wanted to be more involved but his brother kept holding him back. It was easy to forget that we knew how it was going to end as both the investigation and watching the brothers go about their plan were riveting to watch.
The acting was the best part of the film. Wahlberg was again the relatable everyman but this was his best turn yet. He was the emotional center of the film, showing a considerable amount of range in his performance, depicting how troubled Saunders was by what happened which fueled his determination for justice. Bacon was excellent as DesLauriers in a restrained performance in balancing doing his job and doing right for the people of Boston. Wolff and Melikidze were good as the Tsarnaevs but their blatantly different accents stood out. John Goodman as Commissioner Ed Davis, J.K. Simmons as Sgt. Jeffrey Pugliese, and Michelle Monaghan as Saunders’ wife Carol were also good in other supporting roles.
Overall, this was an immersive, emotionally-gripping drama further elevated by great performances.
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