For the second time this year, we’re seeing a biopic that is based a terrorist bombing during the Boston Marathon in 2013. CBS Films was first out of the gate with Patriots Day. Even though it earned better than average reviews from audiences and fans alike, the drama struggled in the box office to pull in any type of impressive haul in the box office. Why is that? The struggles may be due to the fact that we were less than four years removed from that heinous act and reliving such history so soon might not have been the best of strategies. Here we are a little more than half a year later and a similar movie, at least in the perspective of the event in which it’s based on, and we’re being tempted yet again to relive this trying time. This time around it’s Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions who are hoping that Stronger will have better luck from a financial point of view.
Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is just your typical plain Bostonian who works hard and loves his Red Sox. His on again, off again girlfriend/love interest, Erin (Tatiana Maslany) constantly challenges Jeff to become a better person, starting with his commitment towards her. Jeff seizes the opportunity to show Erin that he’s learned and grown as a man by attending the Boston Marathon, a race in which Erin is participating in, to show his support. What starts out as a typical day, is interrupted by an unthinkable event. Terrorists have set off a couple of homemade explosive devices injuring, maiming or killing as many people as possible. Jeff, while standing patiently awaiting Emily to run his way, is in very close proximity of one on the explosions and is lucky to be alive. His legs are taken from him in this horrific tragedy but Jeff is out to prove he’s a fighter.
As discussed earlier, Stronger isn’t the first major release of a film that covered the marathon. What it does differently is it focuses less on the terrorists and instead the focus is placed on victims, Jeff Bauman in particular. To prepare for this very challenging role, Jake Gyllenhaal committed himself fully to understanding as best he could what was going through Jeff Bauman’s head by consulting him constantly. One of things that has become evident in Gyllenhaal’s career is that he is super committed to the roles that takes on. It is because of this commitment that he excels as an actor. Many of the nuances are displayed on screen thanks to Gyllenhaal’s drive and professionalism.
Stronger is a story of survival, struggle and perseverance and audiences will feel the emotional output on many levels. The direction of the story is very grounded with much of the coverage of the terrorist hunt addressed by various news reports throughout the film. Don’t go into this thinking you’re going to get an action thriller type of film. This is all about the human struggle on a small singular level. The intimacy witnessed is powerful to see. There’s so much more than just “surviving” and the beauty here is that director David Gordon Green captures every moment that Jake Gyllenhaal so deftly acts out. Much like Nightcrawler (2014), it’s his acting prowess that will make this film memorable.
Emotion is high throughout as we go though the stages or grief in Bauman’s life. While dealing with constant adversity in areas that you expect, and some other you don’t, tragedy and loss turns into hope and triumph. Stronger isn’t always pretty but it isn’t meant to be. It’s very uplifting to see something that reveals the strength that people some have locked inside and how they inspire others to be better people regardless of their own situation. Check this one in theaters now.