Review: STRONGER (2017) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Review: STRONGER (2017)

Based on the true-life memoir by Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter, STRONGER tells a story about Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), who lost both of his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. He subsequently trying to move on his life with the help of his on-and-off girlfriend, Erin (Tatiana Maslany).

REVIEW: The real-life events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing was first explored in Peter Berg's police procedural, PATRIOTS DAY earlier this year with Mark Wahlberg playing the fictional character as Sergeant Tommy Saunders. By contrast, David Gordon Green's similarly-themed movie in STRONGER does the opposite by basing the story from Jeff Bauman's point-of-view. Bauman, of course, was one of the real-life survivors who lost both of his legs in the Boston Marathon bombing. He also made a headline after Associated Press' Charles Krupa took the now-iconic photograph of him being wheeled away by a man in a cowboy hat named Carlos Arredondo.

Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) being wheeled away after the Boston Marathon bombing in STRONGER (2017)

David Gordon Green, better known for his comedy works in PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (2008) as well as TV's Eastbound & Down and HBO's Vice Principals, honours the man himself by making the right choice to cast Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman. In STRONGER, Gyllenhaal simply disappears into the role as an ordinary Joe whose life ultimately changed after the Boston Marathon bombing cost him his legs. His method performance is spot-on and your heart must have been made of steel if you don't feel the pain and agony that Gyllenhaal's Bauman has to go through the ordeal living without his legs. A single-take sequence in the hospital bed where we witness the bandages are being meticulously removed, while the camera stays still with a close-up shot of his painful reaction and the scene where he let out his anger and frustration on his estranged girlfriend, Erin (Tatiana Maslany) in the car, are some of Gyllenhaal's strongest moments in the movie.

Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) waving the "Boston Strong" flag before a Bruins playoff game in STRONGER (2017)

Whereas Gyllenhaal's engaging performance contributes a lot in STRONGER, Tatiana Maslany is no slouch either. The Canadian actress, best known for her sci-fi TV series in Orphan Black, is more than just a mere supportive girlfriend role. Her performance as Erin is just as good as Gyllenhaal and at times, even surprisingly better in some parts. Her on-and-off emotional bonding with Gyllenhaal's Bauman that sparks their difficult relationship as a couple serves as one of the pivotal moments in the movie.

A scene from STRONGER (2017)

Excellent casting of Gyllenhaal and Maslany aside, veteran British actress Miranda Richardson provides a solid support as Bauman's hard-drinking but caring mother. David Gordon Green also does a good job depicting the working-class Boston families and people in general. The profanities-heavy dialogue can be off-putting at times, but it works within the context of the movie. Although John Pollono's adapted screenplay from Jeff Bauman and Bret Witter's memoir of the same name tends to slide into a conventional melodramatic route, STRONGER certainly qualifies as a well-acted and heartfelt drama.

David Gordon Green's true-life account of STRONGER is a flawed but moving drama played to heartfelt perfection by Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany.

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