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Stronger Movie Review

Stronger (2017) movie poster Stronger

Theatrical Release: September 22, 2017 / Running Time: 119 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: David Gordon Green / Writers: John Pollono (screenplay); Jeff Bauman, Bret Witter (book)

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (Jeff Bauman), Tatiana Maslany (Erin Hurley), Miranda Richardson (Patty Bauman), Clancy Brown (Jeff Bauman Sr.), Nate Richman (Big D), Lenny Clarke (Uncle Bob), Patricia O'Neil (Aunt Jenn), Katherine Fitzgerald (Aunt Karen), Danny McCarthy (Kevin), Frankie Shaw (Gail Hurley), Carlos Sanz (Carlos)

 

Less than a year after director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg applied a heroic, procedural approach to the Boston Marathon bombing, Stronger uses the domestic terror attack to tell the story of one man. Twenty-eight-year-old Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a playful Costco employee and a superstitious Red Sox fan.
He's not over Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany), even though she's dumped him twice. In fact, marathon runner Erin is the reason he's there near the finish line in April 2013 with a sign cheering her on.

Stronger depicts the two explosions from Erin's perspective at a safe distance. But you already know coming in that Jeff will be among those injured in the attack. In fact, his legs have to be amputated right above the knee. His family gathers around in the hospital, with obvious concern in their eyes. There are some cheers as the two young men responsible for the attack are captured dead and alive. But whereas Patriots Day took interest in the criminal masterminds and the pursuit of them led by Wahlberg's composite hero, Stronger keeps its attentions fixed on Bauman as he is hailed as a hero amidst the "Boston Strong" movement and commences painful recovery efforts.

Adapting the book of the same name written by the real Bauman and Bret Witter, actor/scribe John Pollono fittingly invokes the working class family flavor of winning recent Boston area dramas The Fighter and Manchester by the Sea. That color distinguishes what otherwise might be a somewhat unremarkable tale of a tragedy's victim. Returning to the serious character study of his heralded debut, 2000's George Washington, after comedic detours like Pineapple Express and The Sitter, David Gordon Green gives the proceedings the feel of a modern-day Coming Home.

"Stronger" stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman, who survived the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing but had both of his legs amputated above the knee.

Gyllenhaal gets to do some big capital A acting here, which he's clearly displayed an appetite for in recent years. It's almost as if the actor is determined to win over everyone who found him as smug as I did in his earlier work. He is predictably solid here, making Jeff a three-dimensional character instead of just a great guy dealt a bad hand. Others chip in authentic support, like Clancy Brown and an unrecognizable Miranda Richardson as Jeff's father and mother.

There are no huge surprises or revelations, but nor are they needed.
Instead, Stronger compels simply with the unusual tale of someone whom wrong place, wrong time tragedy and perseverance turn into a hometown hero. The acting is good, the writing is good, the direction is steady. Stronger never reaches the heights of those instantly classic aforementioned Boston movies, but it does offer something more personal and therefore meaningful than the underperforming but worthwhile Berg film it will be mostly frequently compared to.

Gyllenhaal is quickly becoming someone who narrowly but consistently misses the Oscars' Best Actor race. Since it's opening now, ahead of the real prime award season, I expect Stronger will add to that track record, even if he deserves some kind of recognition for the fine work.

Related Reviews:
Patriots Day Manchester by the Sea The Fighter Gone Baby Gone
Now in Theaters: Kingsman: The Golden Circle American Assassin It The Lego Ninjago Movie
Jake Gyllenhaal: Nightcrawler Demolition Zodiac Nocturnal Animals
Tatiana Maslany: The Vow Woman in Gold Eastern Promises
Directed by David Gordon Green: George Washington Our Brand Is Crisis The Sitter

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Reviewed September 22, 2017.



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