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Movie Review: Stronger

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Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) waves the flag in David Gordon Green’s Stronger. (Source: Boston Herald)

The Boston Marathon bombing was one of the biggest U.S. tragedies. It’s shocking how a great city would face something so horrible. Leaving hundreds of people injured and three dead, it’s a moment that none of us will ever forget, like with 9/11.

Unlike Patriots Day, where the main focus is taking down the terrorists, Stronger, the second movie about the bombings, focuses on one of the survivors’ road to recovery. Known for making mainstream comedies (Pineapple Express, The Sitter) and independent dramas (George Washington, Prince Avalanche, Joe), this is the first real-life drama from director David Gordon Green.

Based on his memoir of the same name, Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an ordinary, everyday guy from Boston. He works at the local Costco and is big sports fan. One thing he is looking forward to is seeing his girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany) run in the Boston Marathon. Jeff waits for her at the finish while holding a sign for her until the bombs detonate. After losing both of his legs, he begins fighting for his life. With the support from his parents and Erin, he tries to walk again. This time, with prosthetics.

This movie would have gone into sappy territory, but what Green and screenwriter John Pollono give the audience something inspiring and powerful. Gyllenhaal has delivered some phenomenal performances–from his first lead role in October Sky to his Oscar-nominated turn in Brokeback Mountain to becoming dark in Nightcrawler. His performance as Bauman is one of his absolute best. Becoming a symbol of “Boston Strong”, he has the special opportunity to be introduced in front of thousands of fans while waving a flag at the Bruins game, or throwing the first pitch at the Red Sox game.

Most importantly, he wouldn’t be anywhere without his girlfriend. In one particular scene, Jeff and Erin have an argument in the car about being there for one another. When she walks out on him, he crawls to the glass door, knocking on it, so Erin can come out. Then, he experiences flashbacks of the aftermath of the bombing. We see him lying on the ground, with his legs blown off, with the other spectators in agony. This is a heart-wrenching scene that makes the audience feel as if they are part of the incident.

With a strong supporting cast, Gyllenhaal and Maslay are the ones who carry it through with its raw true-story. Stronger is, by far, the best film about the Boston marathon bombing. Here’s to one hundred more.

3.5/4

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